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Let’s Hear it for: Siblings

April 17, 2021

Another Way for week of April 9, 2021

Let’s Hear it for Siblings

(Editor’s Note: Fourth in an eight-week series on “Let’s Hear It” with thoughts on various topics.)

How do families manage care for aging parents if there is only one child?

Yes, plenty of people choose not to have children, and many stop at one. These are perfectly acceptable households and ways of living. I’m not putting anyone down for the choices they’ve made or had thrust upon them because of fertility problems or other issues.

Four siblings: Pert, Nancy, Melodie and baby Terry. I was about 4 1/2 here and my little brother was 6 mon

But at this stage of life, I am not only grateful we have three children, but that I grew up in a family with four siblings.

My mother had another fall in February. This time she broke her shoulder (last year it was her femur). She has been working heroically to recover. We are so proud of her. But it is hard for her, hard for us, hard for any family during these still-pandemic times.  

On Easter Sunday after trying multiple times to connect with her by phone, she closed out our phone call by saying “I am so thankful to have such wonderful kids.” I was in the process of hanging up, and almost didn’t hear her sweet words. She has said that to us numerous times in the past, but her recovery this time has been slower, more painful, more difficult, more depressing for her and us. The difficulties have made it harder to find things to be thankful about. She says she complains too much, but who wouldn’t?

But Mother has a team of us who take on different caregiver roles, something we’ve tapped and named in these later years. Most families are spread out in these times, and rare is the family whose children all live close by. Mom is blessed to have my oldest sister living within 10 miles. She’s a retired nurse. Nancy runs countless errands for Mom in addition to asking knowledgeable questions of the medical staff.

My second oldest sister is Mom’s power of attorney. Mom can still keep her own checkbook and pay her own bills, but Pert is her helper/overseer in this department and I’m sure she does more than I even know about. She is also the asker of hard questions—willing to push and confront staff. God bless her.

My youngest brother lives farthest away—about 900 miles. His wife and her sister take turns caring for their mother who has dementia. So Terry stays in touch with Mom the best he can and we all appreciate the pastoral role he takes on when he is able to visit: leading in prayer and holding hands—so sweet and tender. I remember that gift especially when Dad was in failing health.

Me? I’m the writer of course, trying to keep in touch with Mom by mail and phone—and also jotting down notes and then typing them and emailing them to the family to summarize conversations and decision making by the family and Mom’s Careteam from the rehabilitation unit she is currently in.

Mom about three weeks after her fall.

Of course we all interchange our roles from time to time. I’m sure those who work in nursing facilities pretty much roll their eyes when the “out of town” family members descend on the facility, demanding such and such, asking why about that oversight, or finding a new sore that has developed.

I have felt so sorry for those who’ve lost a loved one in this past year and were not able to be with their relative physically in their final days or hours. At least many facilities have now opened up visitation with compassionate care rules that allow those connections to happen for grieving and bereft family members going through the valley of shadows.

They say getting old is not for sissies, to use an old term. But thank goodness for sibs, if you are fortunate to have good ones who show up, do what they can, pray when they can’t, send flowers, checks or gift cards, and generally support the whole team through the tough times of aging. 

Nancy and me visiting Mom. My other sister came a week later, to spread things out. Mom had not yet had a shampoo (for about three weeks) but now she’s getting a weekly hair appointment which is wonderful therapy! The staff person who took the photo told us we should take our masks down for the photo. 🙂


Your thoughts or stories?

I’m sure when families disagree about care plans for elderly parents, that sometimes it might feel easier and less stressful to be the only child. I’ve talked to numerous folks when disagreements or non-involvement have caused additional grief and stress.


Comment here or send privately to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. I too am thankful for siblings. Since 2015 my sisters, brother and I have spent the last years of my mother and aunt together, sharing roles as power of attorney, takers to appointments, cleaners out of homes, memorial service arrangers. Before his death in 2018, our brother Mark was helpful too, chauffeuring items to the re-uz-it shop and more. Your family is just like ours, honoring our elders. You mom looks happy in the second photo. Falls are hard for old bones to recover from.

    In the coming weeks we will spend time as sisters just relaxing at an VRBO near Homosassa on Florida’s west coast. It’s the first time to be together since before the pandemic, and we all need a chance to rest . . . and catch up.

    • How wonderful to get together on Florida’s Gulf Coast, sounds lovely. I have followed your experiences since at least 2015 — and especially remember your long siege as “cleaners out of homes.”

      Yes, Mom dug deep and brought out a smile for us! Thanks for your comments and experiences.

  2. Silver, Beverly P - silverbp permalink

    Hi Melodie I tried to leave a comment – not much – but the form asks for a url. I have no idea what to put in that blank. So my comment is not relayed. All I said was I was blessed to have a daughter nearby! Bev.

    • Beverly, you were successful leaving your comment. Thanks, thanks, always good to hear from you. The suggestion for you to add your url doesn’t matter–that’s if you have a a blog address of your own you want to leave for others to find. Doesn’t apply to you!! I’m glad your comment came through here and yes, you are bountifully blessed in your lovely Lauren as loyal and hard working daughter and their family! You’ve done well!

  3. Carolyn Brock permalink

    Enjoyed the read and the photo. You all have a sweet mother. Thankful, too, for some awesome siblings.

    • Carolyn, I know you do have awesome siblings as well. Aren’t we fortunate! Sharon, Ruth Ann–the ones I know best! Blessings!

  4. Of the three of us siblings, Mom only had two daughters left after my brother died 25 years ago. The past year and a half, she lived with my sister in Utah, before her death last November. So my sister ended up with the majority of the tasks that only someone in close proximity can take care of. I had the phone calls and the cards in the mail as the things I could do.
    When Covid and Mom couldn’t go out for so many months, being in her 80s and more at risk, I started mailing a card or a note every day. She had cards taped up and plastered all over the walls of her kitchen and living room LOL
    My friend in New York, whose parents are in their 90s, has 3 sisters and they all live close. So all 4 girls take turns caring for the parents and being there most of the day. And its almost too much for them, even though there’s more to divide the care up between.
    Its seems like there’s never a perfect solution – but we all do what we can and muddle through.
    So glad you’re close enough to be able to visit your Mom!

  5. We’re about 600 miles, so that is not too bad, and we have a daughter conveniently located a little over half way there–a great stopping point (and grandsons there!). Our mom always said she didn’t want to go live with any of us, but I sometimes wish we could move her out here. She loves our mountains, but wouldn’t know many people, and at this stage of life, a tough transition. So we hope for the best in the days and months ahead.

    I see the driveway of a nearby older woman: her driveway is always full! And I think, how lucky. They take care of her yard, some of the most beautiful flowers and gardens that they all seem to tend. I don’t know them, but I admire their support.

    Thanks for sharing. I don’t know if I knew/heard that your mother died just last November. (Maybe I forgot or overlooked.) That is really recent. I’m sure you have had many adjustments and grief to work through. I admire your dedication in sending cards every day! I haven’t quite managed that but I’m working on it!

  6. Melodie, I agree 100 percent that siblings who work together as a team are a great blessing to their parent(s) and to each other. I am deeply grateful to four siblings who have all pitched in, offering their special gifts, and giving the time they can dedicate to our mother. Since I have always been the “away” sibling, I look forward to stepping into the role of weekly visitor, and looking for a way to help beyond the memorabilia sifter role that I have had in the past. Jackie Kennedy was once quoted as saying that her deepest desire is for her children to love and support each other. My mother’s desire has been the same. And I share that yearning. We have been blessed in every case. So are you.

  7. Memorabilia sifter. 🙂 Nice. I’m glad you move back closer to your mother, how she must be celebrating that! A great quote from Jackie Kennedy, thanks for sharing it.

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