The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

August 20, 2013

Some people don't know how to be caregivers

DEAR ANNIE: Three years ago, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and then a brain tumor. She has had numerous surgeries and treatments.

Mom is the youngest of five siblings. The whole time she has been fighting this disease, her siblings have been unsupportive. In three years, one uncle has visited twice and called twice. Another lives less than two miles away, but has stopped by for a total of one hour. His wife and kids have neither visited nor phoned.

My aunt speaks to my mother about twice a year. She never visits. She also yells at Mom and is rude to her. She has managed to convince my 84-year-old grandmother that these arguments are my parents’ fault. Several years ago, this same aunt had cancer, and my mother was there for her all the time — like family should be.

I find it hurtful and disheartening that her siblings are so uncaring. They never offer to help, let alone offer words of comfort. Is this normal behavior? The only thing my mother has asked for is moral support from her family, and she has received none. My father, my brother and I feel only animosity toward these family members, knowing how much they have hurt our mother. I think we should forget about them and cut off contact. What do you say? — Loving Daughter

DEAR DAUGHTER: We don’t know why your aunts and uncles haven’t been more supportive. In some families, one person often becomes a “caregiver” by virtue of his or her personality. It sounds as if your mother is that person. It means her siblings do not know how to respond appropriately in caregiving situations because they never have had to do so. Before you decide to cut them off, please let your mother decide. She may prefer to forgive them and continue the relationships, although with a more limited set of expectations.

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