Dear Daughter with Controlling Brother


Dear M,

My brother is living with my mother. He moved in after our father died. I find that I am worrying more and more because it seems like he is really there more for himself than to benefit my mother. Her mortgage is paid so it isn’t as if she needs him to give her financial support. He does some errands but he comes and goes. My biggest worry is that he doesn’t want me or my sister to have much to do with Mom. He is super controlling and tells us that he knows better than we do what is good for her. I am not sure what to do but I think that I have to do something.

Dear Daughter with Controlling Brother,

There is no question that you are facing a very difficult circumstance. Unfortunately, it is all too common that siblings do not see eye to eye. Simultaneously, there seems to be a growing number of adult children, usually single, who are residing with their parents. Some are doing so to have a roof over their head. Others are doing so because the parent is in need of assistance with daily living and in many cases cannot afford the cost of private care at home. These living situations can be based on a healthy plan of care with a parent and child that have a positive relationship.

It is all too often that we see a living situation that may not be best for either the parent or the adult child. It can go both ways. The adult child may have a personality that is not conducive to caregiving. They may have had a difficult childhood which does not lend itself to a caregiving relationship. The parent may have always been a complex character who brought their issues into their parenting. It is also possible that a parent or child could behave differently with one another as the years go by. Let’s just say that there is fertile ground for “family issues.”

What can be done?

I will start with a set of assumptions that may or may not be accurate but because we are not engaged in a conversation, I can only apply my experience. I would think that you have tried to suggest to your brother that the three of you, without your mother, should sit down to talk. I am presuming that you did not get very far. I suppose that your sister is not any closer to being able to “negotiate” with him than you. If that is the case, hold on. Have you or your sister been able to speak with your mother without your brother present? Is she able and willing to speak up or do you feel that she is uncomfortable or even “afraid” to say anything that could upset him. This is where the paths of communication are determined.

You or your sister may want to go back around to your brother and let him know that you would like to have more involvement with your Mom. Maybe he would talk with you about her care needs and/or her doctor’s appointments. Maybe he would be amenable to each of you taking on some aspect of her care. It may take a bit of listening to try to really get at where the control is coming from. It would be terrific if you could get to the bottom of this and then be sure to leave him “with a foundation.” Maybe you could just hold “some of the bricks.”

Not sure that he would agree to a meeting with an Elder Care Consultant or a Family Mediator or an Elder Law Attorney, but these are all possible means of getting to a Plan of Care for your mother. Maybe that will be the way that you can get him to talk. Or maybe that’s only going to add fuel to the fire. It might make the most sense for you and your sister to meet with a professional accustomed to this type of situation in which you could come to a plan of action. Sometimes, it works to do this and then reach out to your brother with a different approach. The chosen means can be changed to achieve the desired result.

If getting together to talk does not occur or the results of a conversation are not satisfactory to you and your sister, then you may need to make a very important decision. You might discuss the option of filing for Guardianship with an Elder Law Attorney. The filing of an Elder Protective Order in your state may also be necessary. Usually, these procedures are filed if you and/or your sister have convincing evidence that he is negligent or abusive without a reasonable doubt.

We always suggest a conversation before anything more powerful.

Yours truly,

Elder Care Industry Pioneer. Aging Expert. Founder & Managing Director of Elder Care Consultants of Choice. Mom & Daughter. Silver-Haired Queen of Purple.

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