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Welcome to CareNotes. In this special section we will feature a reader's letter and provide an opportunity for an interactive exchange that will help find some answers and possible solutions to concerns. If you wish to respond to this letter, simple follow the link provided at the end of the letter and add your comments and thoughts to our CareNotes Board.

This Week's Carenote - 04/02/09
When caring for a loved one, how do you know when it's time to stop trying to get help from other members of the family?  Or do you just continue asking (which seems to annoy them)and hope that one day they will respond positively?

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Name: Diane
Location: Illinois
Date: 04/02/2009
Time: 05:24 AM


I would LOVE to know how others have handled this one!

Name: Penny Stollmeyer
Location: Edison, NJ
Date: 04/02/2009
Time: 08:33 AM


I'm not sure if there is an exact time to stop asking for help, but I do know that the responses you receive from your family members tells me their willingness to. My mother took care of my grandmother for years and I visited as much as I could to help her. My sisters rarely stopped by and I believe it was because they really didn't want to and they couldn't handle it. I often suggested that my mother tell people what she needed, opposed to asking indirectly, making her request seem unimportant. This is difficult because you can't make anybody do anything but you deserve help. It is extremely difficult to do this alone. My grandmother just passed away but right before, my mother finally took my suggestions to seek help from outside sources. Through hospice she connected to the Visiting Nurses Association of New Jersey. They offered to relieve my mother for a few hours a day and were even going to bring in music therapy and reiki (for mom). I'm not sure what your exact situation is but you may even want to consider asking for help from friends who you believe will be supportive for you at this time. It will be so important for you to reserve your energy as much as you can. Asking for the same thing over and over will only make you upset and frustrated(I'm sure you already are). As a life coach I know the importance in putting your energy into things that are working for you and focus on the things you can change. Just to clarify, Why do you think your family isn't helping? How possible is it that they think you can handle it yourself? What resources for assistance are available to you, if any? I wish you well. Take care of yourself.

Name: Judy
Location: Montana
Date: 04/02/2009
Time: 09:25 AM


I've learned that asking for "help" rarely works. What does work is asking for a specific. My Brothers live at varying distances but even when we all lived closer, we were in the request and seemingly ignore cycle. I've learned to ask them individually to call Dad during a specific week of the month or to "stop by and check the toilet to see if it's flushing okay" when they lived closer. I just decided that we all have different time demands, physical strengths and emotional capacities and that my relationship with those family members was more important than their baggage, guilt and my growing resentments. Ask you individual family members to do a task. One of my brother's is my back up for helping manage Dad's money. Another calls weekly and sends and e-mail about how Dad's cognitive abilities seem. One of them sends him a card a couple of times a month. Taking care of a loved one is exhausting and we all are suffering losses and we've each had a different relationship with Dad. I've had to learn to "let go", "let God", "let friends" and let my family be who and where they are. I've learned to refuse to allow myself to be distanced from my family by my fatique and potential resentments because life is complicated enough and way to short to waste the better years. Most of all some years back, I learned that I must avail myself of respite services so that I take some time every week to take care of me. I was way too burned out when I learned this but respite restored my for the next years that have finally come to Dad entering care 3 months ago. I'm still a care giver and still organizing his care and coordinating family involvement but now I get to sleep through the night. Contact you local Agency on Aging for direction to Respite services. Be Well.

Date: 04/03/2009
Time: 05:53 AM


Stop asking them now. If they have not responded yet, don't keep banging your head against that wall. You need to reserve all of your emotional energy to take care of yourself and your loved one. Do not put one more iota of energy into expecting or wishing for help that will not come. Recognize that you are already doing the care by yourself, and whether you know it or not, you are doing fine. There is no perfect way to care for your loved one. You do the best you can with what you have. Also, learn to ignore two things: 1) the magazine articles or other people who say "you must learn to engage your siblings in caregiving." They don't know how difficult/impossible this is. 2) Ignore any criticism from your siblings about your caregiving. These are voices you MUST ignore. If they are not going to show up, they have no say. I have learned this the hard way, but paradoxically, my caregiving tasks are actually emotionally easier now that I have learned not to wait for help. The biggest task ahead of me now is to learn to forgive those who have left me to do this alone. I know I have work ahead of me, but for now I am focused on my loved one.

Name: Linda Derrick
Location: Sandwich, Michigan
Date: 04/04/2009
Time: 03:56 PM


Oh, boy! Listen to the people that DO support you. If all your friends, counselors, nurses, doctors, clergy, spouses and co-workers tell you that your family members don't care . . . believe them. I am my mother's primary caregiver: financial, medical, home maintenance - everything. My sister won't talk to me at all and my brother barely does. Over the years, I've gone from unproductive family meetings to phone contact to written letters. When none of those produced results, I tried counseling. They came to that, promised to help, but didn't follow through. I settled on creating a webpage at and invited them to join. I've been posting updates about Mom for over a year - my brother or sister haven't bothered to look. I had to stop asking for help, because each time I reached out I was either ignored, ridiculed or argued with . . . and I was getting physically ill after each attempt. For my own health, I decided I had to "let go" of hoping they would help. But that's easier said than done. The Serenity Prayer helps a lot, but it's a constant struggle. I have expressed in person and in writing that whenever they want to talk to me, I'll be available. My sister's daughter gave birth last week - Mom still hasn't been taken to meet her new great-grandbaby. Baby showers, weddings, funerals - I'm ignored and excluded from their lives because I held them accountable for things they said they would do for Mom but didn't follow through on. I have a 12-yr. old daughter & a wonderful husband. They deserve a healthy, happy mother & spouse. I thank God I'm here to take care of Mom and them. I don't have to wonder why I'm on this earth - I know. That's all I can do, unless someone has a suggestion for something I haven't already tried. It's heart-breaking and not fair and hurts Mom over and over again - and they won't even try to reconcile. My advice would be to take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved ones. Research, find, and accept whatever help comes your way. Caring people ARE out there - they don't have to be related by blood. Remember what Dr. Wayne Dyer says: that our friends are God's apology for our relatives.

Name: JChan
Location: California
Date: 04/14/2009
Time: 10:29 PM


I just want to say you're not alone. I've been my caregiver for by wife of 40 for 5 years. My wife considered her sister her surrogate mother (their mother passed away about 20 years ago). They were nearly inseparable until the strokes. Both the sister and her husband are physicians. Their answers were always textbook answers; never really taking the time to understand the problems my wife was encountering. I asked and begged for help. Zilch! It still hurts when we visit them especially seeing how much time they have on their hands. I try not to think about them since it only causes more grief. Hope you feel better knowing that you're not the only one with "less than supportive" family.


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