Don't Keep Score

by Emma

For many years now, my husband and I have been the children who keep the most frequent contact with my parents, and who help them the most. Dad has had Parkinson's for 25 years, and Mom has been his main caregiver.

Starting about ten years ago, a good deal of the time with Mom and Dad is spent giving them a break, including making small repairs around the house, doing heavy cleaning, and all the cooking, leaving their freezer full.

Now that Dad is in stage 5 Parkinson's, Mom needs more help than ever. A niece is Dad's main caregiver, but she leaves the "dirty" work (i.e. diapering, bed baths, etc.) to 85-year-old, arthritic Mom.

My three brothers visit on occasion, but do no caring, cooking, cleaning, or errand-running while they are there. They proudly help Dad stand up and walk around the house and yard, but nothing else, except for one brother who helps Mom keep her computer running.

I am also the only child who calls on a regular basis (at least once a week). My brothers call infrequently. I have pieced all this information together from talks with Mom and the paid caregivers who come in twice a week. Mom has been uncomplaining through it all.

Over the last three years, all my helping visits have been made in the midst of two knee replacements, and moving my own household of 20 years. Every spare day off I have is spent traveling to help Mom and Dad.

Now that Dad is in hospice, Mom will have more (and better quality) help, and all help and equipment will be paid by Medicare. But my husband and I will still be the only ones who make regular visits.

My brothers couldn't even be bothered to contact Mom when she emailed us all that Dad was in hospice (I was present when the decision to go into hospice was made).

I have spent the last couple of years growing increasingly disappointed with my brothers and sisters-in-law, who offer unsolicited advice and not much else.

One sister-in-law in particular has been especially tactless, informing us all that we should be very grateful that her daughter is providing what is increasingly substandard care to her grandfather.

After long talks with my husband, who nursed his own mother through terminal cancer, and with a friend who cares for her mother with no help from her brother and sister, I have stopped hanging on to anger and disappointment at my brothers.

Whenever I feel the resentment creeping up on me, I think about what my brothers are missing, and what they will feel when their father is gone.

They don't know it now, but if they don't help care for their father, they will suffer for the rest of their lives.

I believe that my brothers will fear their own deaths unnecessarily because they failed to help their father through his decline and death, and I feel sorry for them.

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