Dear Barb – Sibling Survivor Strategies

Dear Barb:

My father and I were always close and spent a lot of time together. Two years ago he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. It was devastating for the whole family. My mom is having a hard time coping and considering putting my dad into a nursing home. My sister and I are coping with dad’s situation in very different ways. I am trying to spend as much time as possible with dad, even though he hardly remembers me. My sister is the opposite; she feels there is no point in seeing dad because he doesn’t know who she is. My sister’s attitude is hurting my mom, as she is trying her best to make dad comfortable and feel loved. Since my sister doesn’t want to see dad, she is not helping mom either, which is putting the whole burden on me. I just don’t know what to do to get my sister to help out and continue to see my dad. She really is not a bad person and I’m worried that if she doesn’t see dad before he passes, she will regret it after. Thanks, Cheryl.

Hi Cheryl:

Sorry your family has to go through this. Alzheimer’s is a difficult disease for the whole family and requires a lot of support. Your sister may want to remember your dad as he was and it may be too painful to see him like this. Many people have a fear of death and dying, so your sister may be in denial and not want to face the inevitable. Whatever it is, you will have to respect her wishes and perhaps find another way for her to help with your dad’s care. For example, maybe she could take care of your dad’s finances, or do some grocery shopping or cooking for your parents. Also, if you and your mom decide to put your dad in a nursing home, your sister could help with finding the appropriate one. You should let it go and not judge your sister. We all have our limitations, but acceptance makes for much happier relationships with others. Thanks, Cheryl, and you might want to read the letter below.

Dear Barb:

I have never written to an advice column before but I really need some advice. My mom is in the final stages of cancer and my brother and her have always had a complicated relationship. I was hoping it would improve when she became ill, but it didn’t. Mom is suffering terribly and keeps asking for Eric, but he refuses to see her. He says just because she is dying it doesn’t change things. I am trying to encourage him to see mom, but it is beginning to cause problems in our relationship. I just know he is going to regret this once she has passed. I don’t know what to do to get them together. Thanks Jenna.

Hi Jenna:

So sorry for what you are going through. If you read the above letter from Cheryl you will see she is experiencing a similar situation. My advice to you would be the same as it was to her. You need to respect your brother’s wishes and accept that this is his choice. When your mother asks for your brother, simply console her, but don’t speak for your brother. This is his choice and his decision. As I said to Cheryl acceptance makes for much happier relationships. Thanks for writing Jenna.

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Email your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length and to protect confidentiality; your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.