A friend called me the other day because he was upset about his sister’s pancreatic cancer. She lives about 75 miles from him, has no friends or family that can help her (other than him) and is basically indigent. The two of them have hardly spoken in the last 40 years and now he feels tremendous obligation only because of their blood ties.
He owns his own business which is struggling now due to the economy, has a wife and three children living at home to support and he doesn’t know what to do. He feels like it’s all on his shoulders, a responsibility that he doesn’t want or need, but how can her turn his back on his own sister?
There are two areas of stress here: financial support and logistical support. He simply does not have the resources to support her financially. If it were his own wife or children he’d sell the house if he had to, but he just can’t/won’t do that for her. There is only so much he can do in that department, and he is comfortable with those limitations.
Logistical support takes a lot of his time, which he can’t afford either. He’s willing to pick her up once a week or so, take her to treatment and take her home again (considering the distance and traffic, that’s an all-day proposition), but what about all of her other needs? He feels obligated but just can’t do it. He’s stuck.
After talking with him for a while it occurred to me that a lot of his stress was due to his “I-have-to-do-everything” thinking. He doesn’t. There are lots of ways he can get help.
Here are a few:
a) There are support groups that coordinate with treatment centers to help with transportation. He can call her clinic and ask about what is available;
b) There are also local support groups in her home city that will do the same thing;
c) Meals on Wheels may be able to provide some food;
d) His wife can help with coordination of resources; and
e) His children are grown and can help, perhaps with transportation (they can take turns), food, etc.
His wife and children were more than happy to help, and once he considered all the options, he saw his role change from a “doer” to a “project manager.” He felt much better.