Dear Going It Alone


Dear M,

I don’t know what to do anymore. My sister and brother will not speak with me about our mother’s declining. They think that she is “just getting older and what do you expect?” I don’t feel that way. I want to do everything I can for my Mom. She is slowing down and she is somewhat forgetful. She lives alone in the house we grew up in. What do I do about my sister and brother? I don’t want to do this alone.

Dear Going It Alone,

Sounds like you feel that your brother and sister just don’t get it and that you want to be able to talk with them about the changes you are seeing in your Mom. You may want to feel supported. This is perfectly understandable. You all grew up with this same mother and although each of you may have differences in your relationship with her, she is still the responsibility of all of you (unless there is a piece of trauma history or something not stated). We can only expect those siblings who had at least a relatively healthy upbringing to step up to the plate. There are certainly instances where it should not be expected to see such behavior, adult children who had unhealthy or traumatic upbringings.

Let’s assume for the moment that the three of you had a similar experience with your Mom or enough that all three of you might be able to extend oneself to join with the others to converse about what to expect with Mom’s aging and where you see yourselves taking some type of action. You may find if you can get to the point of talking with one another that each of you may be more comfortable than not with certain aspects of attending to your Mom. An example might be that one of you is nearby and is good with getting household tasks done including repairs. One of you nearby might be able to assist your mother in meal preparation and there is always “the classic child at a distance” that might be interested in managing the finances as needed and sharing that information with the others.

But…but…but…how does one adult child get the others to even talk about the changes in Mom? Not so easily for some. There are adult children who always want to think of their Mom as she was 20 years ago. But Mom is not 20 years younger. Reality speaks to changes in our minds and our bodies. Yes, our DNA is responsible for some of the parameters of our aging process. WE are responsible for how proactive we want to be or whether WE choose by default to be an ostrich! Putting our head in the ground as the parent ostrich or putting our head in the ground as the adult child ostrich does not serve any of the family well.
The ostriches’ heads need to rise to the occasion.

Speak to your siblings from your viewpoint as to what you need. Keep your comments positive in nature such as, “Mom is getting older and I have seen some changes. I presume that you have. I really need to have a conversation with you …the three of us, to think about how are we going to support Mom going forward so that she can continue to live as independently as possible for a s long as can be.”

Yours truly,

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

To submit your question, click here. Meredith selects one and posts a reply biweekly. To read more of her letters, click here