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"When a Sibling Visits from out of Town and Disrupts Caregiver Plans"

Caregiver Question

"My sister is making her yearly visit from out of state next month. She always comments on everything regarding Mom's care, from Mom’s doctors to the kind of diapers we buy, to the color of Mom’s dish soap! She challenges everything we do and every decision we make. She always creates a flurry of activity and disruption. We "country bumpkins" cannot measure up to her big-city expectations.

I want to tell her to stop coming since we do all of the caregiving anyway.  What would you do?"


The Caregiver Column Answer

I was tempted to say “grin and bear it,” but it seems that has been your approach all along, which is making you miserable.  I cannot support telling your sister to stop visiting Mom. You must realize your sister thinks she is being helpful, even though she is disruptive. She may not even realize her advice is condescending. Family caregivers who behave this way do not often realize the impact they are having.



I recommend giving your sister several jobs or problems to work on during her visit. Make sure they are jobs with substance. Consider scheduling physician appointments for her to escort your mother to. Perhaps she can shop for clothes with and for your mother. Your sister could clean out one of Mom's closets or organize some of her cabinets. Assign her very real tasks to accomplish that fill her trip with duties that usually fall on you. This strategy may be the only way she can truly understand what you have to do as a caregiver every week that she is gone.

Do not surprise your sister with these tasks. Call her ahead of time to let her know what tasks you need help with. Do not be too surprised if you get a little pushback on the assignments. Your sister may not be used to helping on her visits. Let her know how important her assistance is to your well-being and to your mother’s comfort. Praise her skills as much as you are able to during this call.

Next, you will need to back away and let your sister do what was assigned to her. Do not take back the tasks.  Do your best not to criticize her efforts. Your sister may perform the tasks differently than you would, as no two people work the same. Give yourself a break that week and try to reconnect with your out-of-town sister. Who knows! She may be a tad less critical when she has to be a caregiver as well.  Hopefully, she will better understand your workload. This may even open the door for your sister to perform certain tasks when she returns home that do not require being physically present.

I wish you the best.


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