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Carol Bradley Bursack, Published April 13 2014

Minding our Elders: Sibling disapproves of parent’s move to nursing home

DEAR CAROL: I’ve been taking care of my mother for seven years. For the first five years, she lived in an apartment and I visited twice a day to provide help. The past two years she’s lived with me.

Mom has dementia that is quickly progressing. She now needs constant supervision so I took a leave from work, but I’ll lose my job if I don’t return next month.

There is a good nursing home near my house and I’d like to get Mom settled there. Even without work issues I can’t take much more of this kind of life. My brother says it’s my duty to continue caring for Mom. He’s 500 miles away and doesn’t contribute time or money. I think he wants to inherit from Mom and he knows that the nursing home will use up her money. I have Power Of Attorney. Is it wrong of me to move Mom? – Patricia

DEAR PATRICIA: It seems to me that you’ve already done more than your share. You have to think about your own future as well as your mom’s. From your note, it sounds like it’s time for your mom to receive professional around-the-clock care so this move should benefit both of you.

It’s true that some adult children try to prevent their parents from getting the expensive care they need in order to preserve an expected inheritance. Others may not have such an unsavory motive but feel that nursing homes or even outside caregivers are substandard to family care.

In the end, people like your brother who don’t have the capacity to visit an ailing parent are likely to pay a high emotional price as time goes on. I’d like to emphasize that I’m not including children of abuse in this group. Those cases are complicated and often need to be handled differently. However, in your brother’s case, it seems that either he’s afraid to see how badly his mother has declined or he’s extremely selfish. Maybe both. Yes, it is possible that inheritance is part of the picture, as well. Whatever the reason for his behavior, he’ll likely regret it eventually.

You have every right to make this decision for your mother’s sake as well as your own. Not only have you provided care for your mother over the years, but your mother also assigned you Power Of Attorney. Even with your mom in a nursing home, you’ll still be part of the care team. You’ll be her advocate and her emergency contact. I’m sure that you’ll be her regular visitor, as well.

It’s time for you to regain a life of your own. If your brother continues to complain after you’ve tried to include him in the move, you can suggest that he is welcome to take over his mother’s care as long as she is willing. I’m quite sure that he’ll leave the issue alone after that, though I hope that you can eventually convince him to visit his mother. Good luck going back to your paid employment. Life still won’t be carefree, but you’ll probably have a chance for more balance in your life than you do now.


Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carolbursack@msn.com.