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My sister complains about our old mother too much

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a homemaker in my 60s. My older sister, who runs a business with her husband, complains about my mother, with whom she lives. It’s terrible listening to her.

My sister’s husband’s cancer has spread, and the hospital said there’s nothing more they can do for him, so he moved back to our mother’s home. It goes without saying that I’m worried about my brother-in-law, but I’m also worried about my sister, so I’ve visited them quite a few times.

When I visit, I’m shocked to find my sister doesn’t talk about her husband but complains about our mother. She said our mother’s dementia is progressing — she doesn’t hand over her laundry anymore and she has nocturnal incontinence.

Whenever I talk to our mother, she sounds like anyone in their 90s would, but my sister keeps saying: “She’s troublesome. She’s troublesome.”

Our mother often helped my sister with her housework and also her children when they were young. So it hurts to hear her harsh complaints as if she’s forgotten that fact.

I believe this all stems from her having to care for her sick husband and worrying about everything, but it’s horrible to watch my mother seeming to lose her place in her own home.

I’d like to visit my mother’s home more frequently, but this isn’t easy because I use a wheelchair.

While I sympathize with my sister, how do I go about asking her to take care of our mother?

E, Saitama Prefecture

Dear Ms. E:

I can understand why you’re worried about your aged mother. However, the most important thing right now is to support your sister.

It takes an emotional and physical toll to support a family member with advanced cancer, to a degree far beyond what you can imagine. In the case of your sister in particular, it’s her husband who has cancer. So I’m sure she’s also worrying about finances from here on out. She’s running the business on behalf of her husband and taking care of her sick husband and mother. I worry about her health.

Your sister also urgently needs support for your mother’s sake, too. Do whatever you can to support your sister even if you can’t actually visit your mother’s home. You can not only provide direct support, but also offer helpful information and lend a sympathetic ear.

First of all, you can start by listening to all her complaints about your mother, saying, “That sounds so hard,” to show you’re sympathetic to the hardships she’s facing. I believe this is the kind of support you can provide for your sister and mother. I suggest you also look for people near your mother’s home who can help them and try to get government support for them.

Junko Umihara, psychiatrist

(from Dec. 16, 2017, issue)Speech

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