8/8/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

The daughter who has been a primary caregiver for her parents wonders if she owes her estranged brother updates on their parents. See what Amy Dickinson advises in this edition of Ask Amy.

Dear Amy:

My mom had a series of devastating strokes 17 years ago. Since then, she has been in and out of nursing homes and hospitals. My dad has severe arthritis in his knees and is awaiting surgery.

My estranged brother and his wife are heavy drinkers. I try to avoid their obnoxious drunken shenanigans.

My brother has basically written all of us off. He initiates no contact with any of us on the false premise that we have abandoned him.

When I contacted him about mom’s new nursing home and gave an update on our dad, my brother said he doesn’t care anymore and abruptly ended the conversation.

My sister and I, along with our husbands, have been doing the heavy lifting taking turns as caregiver, taking care of our parents’ home maintenance and our father’s care.

Not once has our brother offered to help. He also deleted all of us on his social media. His wife posts passive-aggressive comments. (I have since deleted her from my own “friends” list.)

Should I continue to try and give my estranged brother updates, or should I just write him off – as he has done with us?

As their son, I still feel like he has a right to know what’s going on with his parents.

Asian man in wheelchair at a park, his daughter behind him. Photo by Kennosuke, Dreamstime. The daughter who has been her parents’ caregiver wonders if she owes her estranged brother updates on their parents. See what Ask Amy says.

Dutiful Daughter

Dear Dutiful:

Yes, your estranged brother does have a “right” to know about his parents.

But with rights, come responsibilities.

His behavior runs in something of a vicious cycle. Because he is not helpful and knows you are acting as the responsible caregiver, he must also reject you. Because he rejects you, he can justify not being helpful.

To satisfy your own concerns, you should email him: “You don’t seem to want to hear from me, but do you want to receive occasional health updates about our parents? I’ll respect your decision; just let me know.”

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from an estranged brother to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson


Managing family conflicts over elderly parents

Book Review: ‘Brothers, Sisters, Strangers: Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation’

Click here to read more Ask Amy columns curated for a baby boomer audience. 

Amy Dickinson