My family won’t leave!

They showed up and are underfoot and driving me crazy

Topics: Since You Asked, Family, extended care, parents, elderly, Elderly Care, in-laws,

My family won't leave! (Credit: Zach Trenholm/Salon)

Dear Cary,

My brother-in-law, who lives with my sister in another state, has been spending the past few weeks in my city. His father had to go into assisted living, and he is in town to ready his childhood home for sale in order to pay for his father’s long-term care.

“The Plan” was for him to stay in that house, do repairs, direct contractors and make ready for an estate sale and the sale of the property. That plan was foiled by his estranged, crazy (on so many levels) and frightening sister when she gained access to the house, moved in and is squatting. She maintains she has the right to live permanently in the house.

My brother-in-law, fearing for his health, safety and sanity, asked if he could stay with me. I was happy to welcome him, at first. Though we have not been close until recently, both he and my sister had been generous to me recently, with accommodations and airline tickets to visit them, things that are difficult for me to afford myself.

But it’s true what Benjamin Franklin said: “Fish and visitors smell after three days.”

I want to tell them to find someplace else to stay but I want to have a close relationship with my sister.

I thought it would be only a week. Then it was two. He goes home on weekends. He is aware and continually apologizes for the disruption to my life, though that does not stop him from making changes around my house and monopolizing my time.

When I asked at the end of the second week what his plans were, because I am leaving on a trip myself and have engaged a house-sitter and a dog sitter, I was told my sister planned to arrive the next week and stay as well while I was gone.

“I guess I should have asked before I assumed … you can still have the dog sitter come, we won’t be there that much,” she said.

When I called to ask for detailed plans about exactly when they are coming, when they are going, can they care for the dog (I’d have boarded him if I could afford it but can’t, hence the dog sitter; and why have someone come and go at odd hours when they are going to be there anyway?), I was told that I just did not understand how “his” sister was disrupting their lives, plans were subject to change and there was no time to answer my questions. Even a hotel requires more consideration than that!

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I have been bought some meals and they have told me I can have a few items from his father’s house, but it’s not enough!

I’m sorry for their situation but I feel I have more than reciprocated their generosity and they are taking advantage of me. I’m afraid if I say anything it will set back our relationship but do I really want a relationship with these people?

The cost is higher than I ever imagined and I’m dreading my water bill!

What should I do?

Trapped

Dear Trapped,

Yes, you really do want a relationship with these people. They are family. So though it is uncomfortable now, I suggest you do your best to get through this uncomfortable period as amicably as possible for the next few weeks. It is apparent that you don’t know each other very well and are responding to some very disruptive elements. So that’s going to make it hard and at times you might feel a little crazy. Try to do the best you can with the disruptions. When parents can no longer care for themselves it causes disruptions that ripple outward. Everyone has to try to pull together and put their own needs aside for a bit.

My advice is to not do anything rash, and try to live with each other one day at a time as you figure out how all the pieces of this puzzle will fit together. There will be some discomfort, perhaps some anger. But until a clear solution appears, it would be best to just do what you can to accommodate.

It’s going to be important for your brother-in-law to come to some kind of legal solution to the question of what to do with his father’s house. That’s a sticky question but it is not your problem. Please do your best to be hospitable while your sister and he try to deal with this problem.

If you do that, I think that solutions will appear. You need to preserve the peace, though, so that you can engage in productive dialogue.

If you want to mention to your sister and your brother-in-law that the whole situation is making you a little crazy, I think that makes sense. It’s no doubt making them crazy too.

I do think it is only right that they take care of the dog. But they may need some training, if they are not dog people. And yes, they are being discourteous. But try to bear up until the situation can clarify.

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