Q. We are originally from Asia. In our culture, the parents’ property goes to sons, and they give daughters whatever they can afford. Last time they went back home, they signed over all the property to their sons. One brother (the oldest and our mother’s favorite) was responsible for all of the finances of the house and other decisions.
When they came back, my mother lost her job. I helped them buy a two-bedroom condo. Now she is getting some unemployment, and they are just surviving financially. They don’t know any English, and I have to do all the bill paying, grocery buying, and coordinating of medicines.
My husband is unhappy about this, so it’s causing stress in my personal life. What bothers me is that they have given everything to their sons. They should have stayed with them. I have paid back every penny they spent on my education and marriage. What should I do?
A. It is an admirable part of your culture to look after the elders, and you have certainly done your share. Given that you are now cross-cultural, I recommend that you encourage your parents to return home. It would be fair to tell them you are not able to support them any longer, and it is harming your marriage. Your brothers, according to custom, are their proper heirs and should be the ones to look after them.
Let your parents know that being adrift in a country where they cannot speak the language or even go shopping cannot be comfortable for them. If you withdraw from the situation, I think they will, indeed, return to Asia. Do not let them guilt you into continuing with things as they are.
My elderly mother stays with me some months and with my sister’s family the rest of the time. When my mom stays with me, she often is dramatic and somewhat needy. I feel she needs to be in assisted living. My sister and I rarely talk to each other due to all of our dysfunction. How do I get my mom to understand that I love her but truly think she needs more care than I can provide? She is on a fixed income, and I would not be able to provide funds to help out.
A. Dysfunction or no, you have to talk to your sister about the situation. This conversation is necessary, so just try to keep things on the subject at hand. You do not say how your sib is fixed financially, or whether she agrees with your opinion. You need to find out. If your sister cannot swing an assisted living residence financially but agrees that more professional care is needed, the next step is to look into Medicaid options. If she disagrees with your evaluation, suggest that she be the sole caretaker and you will contribute what you can.
Should you be able to reach an agreement with your sister, talk to your mother. It will be a difficult talk to have with your mother, but an important one. Companionship with others in the same boat often turns out to be a blessing, and the elderly parent does better.