My Nurse-Sister Is Meddling with Mom's Care and Bossing Around Her Health Care Team
"I think my sister is compromising Mom's care. My sister is a nurse, and she is so confrontational with Mom's doctors and nurses that they either give in to her petty demands or avoid her completely. She always makes a scene, challenging the care they are providing for Mom, who is in a nursing home and occasionally the hospital. Is there any way I can help my sister be more reasonable with Mom's health care providers?" - READER
Your sister is likely trying to achieve the highest level of care possible for your Mother, though she won't win any style points for it. Are your concerns justified? I will help you examine your situation based on the experiences I have encountered over the past twenty-five years in health care.
What you are seeing is your sister under stress and her reactions to others providing care differently than she would. It is not apparent to your sister that her actions may be causing negative consequences for your mother. Stress and fear are causing your sister to act in exaggeration.
Your sister may not see Mother's situation the same way she sees her own patients' situations. There is a reason it is not considered ethical to treat your family members, and it is because we do not always think rationally when it comes to those we love. She is, unfortunately, trying to be a nurse and a daughter at the same time with poor results, which is what you are seeing.
What You Can Do
Make Sure It's Not Your Mother
Make sure your mother is not the one pressuring your sister to be on the attack. Sometimes patients excite their family members because they are afraid to voice their own concerns. If that is the case, Mom needs to know the impact sister is having on her care.
Someone who is calm and has your sister’s respect should step up and ask your sister to stand down for your mother's sake. It will not be easy to have that conversation with her, and she may not react well. Perhaps your family has looked to her to be the communicator on all things health care related, and she may blow up at the messenger. However, it is clear that such an intervention needs to happen for your mother's sake.
Consult the Facility's Social Worker
Another individual to consult is the facility's social worker. Social workers can be a wonderful resource when it comes to managing difficult family situations. They work with families to uncover more effective ways to communicate or, in your case, uncover what is truly bothering your sister. If family members are not able to calm her, the social worker may be able to help you figure out a solution.
Know That Health Care Professionals Have Experienced This Situation Before
While it is never easy to work with an emotionally-charged family member, health care teams do their best to work with people like your sister. We see this happen all the time. If it is too challenging for them, they will likely bring in leadership to help them manage her. While she might be making things difficult, they should manage.
It is often a surprise to families that the outcome of patient care is influenced by the patient and family members, not just the health care providers. Please step up and be part of the solution as best you can for your mother's sake. Addressing your sister, or finding someone who will, may not be easy, but it is surely worth doing.
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