Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
I have a dead father, a sick mother, and a crazy sister. I promised my
father on his deathbed to take care of my mother, who drinks and
smokes too much and is now lying to her doctors after a severe
medical event that landed her in ICU. My sister lives two hours away.
She answers phone calls, emails, and texts randomly, sometimes up to
a month later. I left her multiple messages when Mom was admitted,
and kept her up to date on everything. I told her I’ve been staying
with Mom since her release, chauffeuring her to medical appointments,
cleaning her frig and shopping. Now my sister has decided I am
“controlling” and “interfering” and that I have no right telling the
doctors anything about my mothers behaviors because “she’s an adult
and she can say what she wants about what she puts in her body.” I
feel as though the docs need to know that she massively under-reports
usage, and when she says she’s “stopped,” she’s means since her
confinement. What do you say, about communication with all of them,
other than my dad, to whom I relate just fine?
Hands Full !!
Dear Hands Full:
Stressful times like this bring out the best and worst in everyone. In
families where communication is already strained, what bubbles to the
surface isn’t always pretty. Your biggest priority: continue to take good
care of your mother. You sound like a caring and well-intentioned
daughter she’s fortunate to have close by. Re the doctors, couch the
information the form of questions, such as: What are the risks and
consequences if my mother does smoke, drink, etc.? Do that within
her hearing so she can hear what the doc says, and then repeat the
answer as needed. You might ask if they could do blood tests to
determine residual levels of nicotine and alcohol, to see if they’re
impacting her health or interfering with her medications.
Attempt a rational conversation with your sister. Explain your
reasoning and efforts. Tell her you’re willing to leave her messages
–phone and email – about your mother’s status, but not to be raked
over the coals for helping. Say you’re not willing to discuss or
negotiate your choices around being a good daughter. She can talk
directly to your mother or to the doctor if she likes. If she tries to
berate or castigate you, tell her that’s outside the boundary of your
communications agreement. Be sure to stress that you’ll update her
asap if anything changes. Be friendly and ask about her life, but hold
the line where it matters to you. If she persists, say you’ll call if
anything changes and end the convo. Rinse and repeat as needed.