9/19/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A sister with mental illness has withdrawn from her family, leaving her sister as the sole caregiver for their parents. Now the responsible sister wonders, does she need to tell her estranged sibling of the parents’ death? See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson of “Ask Amy” says.

Dear Amy:

I have one sister and no other siblings. My parents have been divorced for 28 years and live in the state I grew up in.

Approximately 18 years ago, my sister followed me to the same city I have been living in for approximately 24 years. One reason she allegedly moved was to be closer to my children, although she never really saw them more than a few times a year for birthdays and holidays.

After cutting both of my parents out of her life in 2019, she cut me out of her life in 2021. She was angry that I took her to the hospital during a very serious manic episode. She has no contact with my children.

I love her, but I have come to accept that given her mental illness, I will never be able to do enough for her, and I no longer wish to ride her roller coaster of false accusations and the other drama she invites into her life on a regular basis.

I am the power of attorney for our father, who lives in an independent living center that I arranged for him.

woman with father. When one sister withdraws entirely, does the responsible one need to tell her estranged sibling of the parents’ death? “Ask Amy” weighs in.

While he is not at death’s door, I know that I will be the person in charge of making his end-of-life arrangements when the time comes.

Given the fact that my sister has removed herself from both parents for three years and no longer communicates with me and my family, what, if any, are my obligations to inform this estranged sibling of my parents’ passing when the time ultimately arrives?

Hurt and Confused

Dear Hurt:

In the event of your parents’ death, you are obligated to inform your sister. You are not obligated beyond that, nor are you responsible for her behavior or choices.

I state that in my sincere belief that you would regret it if you didn’t.

Related: ‘Sibling Estrangement and the Road to Reconciliation’

Eldercaring coordination

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 family conflicts during parents’ final days to another estranged sibling and grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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