A few siblings bear brunt of caring for aging father

Published 8:26 am Monday, April 29, 2024

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DEAR ABBY: I am one of the younger children of eight. One sister is deceased, which leaves seven of us to care for our father, who has had dementia since our mother passed. The four oldest are retired. The youngest three still work. 

I believe we all should take responsibility for our father. Two of the older siblings are my sisters. I live on the other side of the country. I still work full time, but I take a leave for two months every year to care for Dad. The other 10 months of the year, my sisters take care of him. 

I think this should be a “child thing” instead of a “girl thing.” If everyone did their share, no one would be overwhelmed with Dad’s care. How do I get my brothers to step up? The two who are retired refuse to do anything. One is still working, but he’s a teacher and off all summer. My younger brother helps when he can, but he and his wife still work full time. They can’t afford to take time off like I do. 

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My older sisters aren’t in great health, and I’m afraid one or both will die because they have taken on too much responsibility. What advice can you offer? – DIVIDING IT UP IN WASHINGTON


DEAR DIVIDING IT: There are other ways to help with caregiving than in person – one is with money. The family members who ARE stepping up should insist that the brothers who can’t be bothered to do their part contribute to hiring someone to care for Dad if they are unable or unwilling to step up. If they refuse, and you have to go that route, an attorney might be able to convince them to do the right thing. Shakespeare’s King Lear was right when he said, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.”


DEAR ABBY: While you occasionally print letters related to breast cancer, I don’t recall seeing any related to male breast cancer. I am a male breast cancer survivor. I was first diagnosed in 2008, with a recurrence in 2018, and I have been amazed by the number of people I have spoken to who don’t realize the fact it exists. Granted, breast cancer affects far fewer men than women, but it is serious, nonetheless. 

Every year there is an entire month that is dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness, yet most of the information is aimed toward women. This means we remind 50% of those who can get this disease that they need to be vigilant while ignoring the other 50%. Like most conditions, if you have a family history of breast cancer, it is important to be mindful. Abby, do you agree we need to get the word out? – SURVIVOR IN OHIO


DEAR SURVIVOR: I certainly do. Male breast cancer is rare, but it does happen. (It has been mentioned in my column before.) Some famous men who revealed they’d had breast cancer are television host Montel Williams, Peter Criss of the rock group Kiss, Richard Roundtree, the original “Shaft,” and Sen. Edward Brooks (who lived to the age of 95). Thank you to all of them for speaking out. Any man who knows there is a history of breast cancer in the family should mention this to his physician and take their cue from their doctor.


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


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