Dear Annie: I am one of five middle-aged sisters. My father died four years ago, and shortly after, my mother moved to an apartment near me. As her health has declined, I’ve gradually become a partial caregiver. I am with her every day, sometimes for six hours or more. Mom insists on paying me. She can easily afford it. I was conservative with my hours, and the rate was comparable to in-home services. I am an excellent caregiver and pleased to help. Mom knows her care is better than she’d get anywhere else. She is content and wants to stay where she is. Her doctors concur.
After a year of “salary,” my sisters hit the ceiling. I am Mom’s power of attorney, co-trustee and executor, and I’ve been 100 percent honest. I love my sisters, but they have no faith in me. They have mentioned moving Mom away from me. Should I just go ahead and take over? Legally? Financially? Isn’t there a way we can all simply get along?
-- Outcast Sister
Dear Outcast: Taking over seems guaranteed to provoke your sisters. Instead, invite them to participate in Mom’s care. Explain in detail what Mom needs. Perhaps they would like to take turns caring for her to see for themselves the amount of time and effort required. Ask whether they would prefer hiring an outside caregiver, and let them research the cost. Show them in writing the number of hours you spend with Mom. They need to appreciate what you do without feeling guilty or resentful or, worse, thinking that you are not deserving of any compensation.
Dear Annie: The other day I mentioned to my oldest daughter that her youngest sibling seemed overly close with her youngest child. My daughter replied, “Oh, that’s just the youngest child syndrome. Everyone spends more time on the youngest and gives them everything. You do, too, Mom.”
This statement hurt a little. When I went home, I thought about it and would like to clarify: Yes, when my older children grew up, I had more time to spend with the youngest, but that doesn’t mean I loved him more. Yes, over the years, our expenses have gone down, so we could buy more things, but that doesn’t mean I loved him more. Yes, with fewer children around to care for, I could take him places that I never took the others, but that doesn’t mean I loved him more. My older kids were with me when we couldn’t afford restaurants, so we had more family dinners at home. There was no money for movies, so we built a snowman. Instead of fancy trips, we read and talked about those exotic places. But, daughter, I never loved you less.
-- Your Mother
Dear Mother: For every older child who believes the youngest is indulged, there is a younger child who believes the oldest is favored. Thank you for making it clear that in most families each child is loved deeply and completely, even when the surrounding circumstances change.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “A Little Wiser,” the man whose wife of 41 years had breast cancer. The experience of almost losing her transformed their relationship. They could no longer remember the things that bothered them. They no longer spoke hurtful words. They no longer saw the petty annoyances.
That letter made me cry. My husband wondered what happened. I gave him the paper, and he started crying, too. You see, 18 months ago, I had a stroke. I am still recovering.
Tell “Wiser” that we had the very same “deficiencies” in our memories and discovered each other all over again. Thank you for printing it.
-- Love It
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