What to do When Siblings Won’t Take Care of Mom

You've got questions. She's got answers.

By Jeanne Marie Laskas from Reader's Digest | January 2006

Feeling grumpy? Got a problem? E-mail Jeanne Marie Laskas at: advice@rd.com. Sending gives us permission to edit and publish.

Question I’ve been taking care of Mom since Dad died 13 years ago. I get little help from two sisters. Mom’s health has declined, and recently she had a fall and broke her arm. I’m finding it harder mentally and physically to cope. I work, take care of her, and have no life of my own. I’ve begun to retreat to my room until bedtime. Am I just being selfish? — Need Personal Time

Dear Needy, You must tell your sisters you’re drowning and need a life preserver. If they can’t be there to share the day-to-day “heavy lifting,” they need to help pay for relief — like visiting nurses, meal delivery services, house cleaning. Call the social services department at your local hospital. You can’t be expected to do this entirely on your own.

Question Some people think “the more the merrier,” but when my husband and I invite a particular couple out, they ask friends of theirs along without consulting us. Then all of a sudden, it’s their party and we feel like fifth wheels. Isn’t it rude not to check with the ones who made the initial plans? And how can we stop this? — Party Poopers

Dear Poopers, Yes, their behavior is boorish, but pointing out their rudeness may not be the best way to win or keep a friendship. Try asking this couple to your house. I really doubt they’d extend that invitation to others. If they do, or if they suggest you add to the guest list, then you can surmise that they prefer their entourage to your sole company. At that point, you can decide if you want to join their fan club or find friends who sometimes like to socialize just with you.

Question I was promoted and moved to a new group. There is only one guy at my level there. One day I walked by his cube and saw he was reading my report on his computer. When I asked what he was doing, he said he was checking my work. I told him he didn’t have the authority to do that and told him I was going to talk to my supervisor. I did, and my boss agreed with me. But he hasn’t stopped this jerk, who still secretly monitors me. Now I’m being left out of meetings and passed over for assignments. What can I do? — Paranoid

Dear Paranoid, As someone once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out to get you.” This guy is either a nut, or someone has given him authorization. Find out which. If Nosy is snooping on his own, he could be in trouble. Go back to your boss and demand he put a stop to it. And keep doing your job on time and up to par.


My best friends are a couple I have known since junior high school 25 years ago. Recently the wife told me she’s having an affair with a co-worker, and I feel trapped in a dilemma. Should I betray her confidence and tell her husband — or keep my mouth shut and, in a way, betray him? — Caught In the Middle

Dear Caught, Stay out of it. Refuse to discuss this matter with either of them. Get clear in your own mind that the only betrayal occurring is within their marriage. You have nothing to do with it. She is being unfaithful to her husband, and she has compounded this duplicity by trying to ensnare you as a co-conspirator. Tell her you won’t listen. And tell him nothing.


My boyfriend started lying to me and verbally abusing me. I dumped him. He begged me to take him back. I’m 20, and I don’t want to be stupid. Should I give him another chance? — Unsettled

Dear Unsettled, One chance. But only if he agrees to counseling. Otherwise, you could be headed into the classic pattern: abuse, remorse, apologies, promises, abuse. If he won’t seek help, get out while the gettin’s good.

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