Adult siblings and parents asking us for money

My husband and I are trying to problem solve an ongoing issue in dealing with our families. It's a prevailing theme for us and we need to see something in a different way in order to address it.

We have three small children and each have our own businesses. We are boot-strapping due to the starting-a-business part of things. We need family help, but both of our families are not helpful; in fact, all four grandparents are very needy (aside from my father having dementia, my mom spends all of her time with my siblings' kids; my father-in-law is off traveling the world and calls only when he feels depressed to let us know or shows up at our door to tell us how mad he is about the 'irritation-du-jour.' My mother-in-law recently sued us because she thought we had her ex-husband's money, which was a nuisance because of the time going to court, etc). Yet, we are called upon to give time to her health problems, to give money (requests are big $), to care for my father with dementia, to watch nieces and nephews (we have not granted requests in over two years) and are expected to give services for free to family members (my husband is a physician). Small things, such as asking my sister to send a piece of mail (envelope) to us from her home in Seattle seems like the equivalent of pulling teeth. Many different moving parts here, but we are stuck inside and need to see the outside.

Is this a suck-it-up-buttercup issue?

Maybe my thought process is an entitled one?

Is this a lack of proper boundaries issue?

We are not able to accommodate everyone in our family and are berated when we cannot grant requests (most recent request occurred three days after closing on our home in MA and my brother asked for $15,000 for our parents. By the we never told him we made any money because we didn't actually make money)!

Besides hiring nannies and au pairs to help (which is no longer an option), and small children in preschools, we can no longer afford to help our families, whether it's time or money. At the same time, my dad's dementia care is $12,000 per month and my mom is running out of money. We have no say in anything (my oldest sister makes all of the decisions and it's my opinion there are better and more affordable options for his care). We are ONLY contacted when someone needs help and/or money but we receive no response requests of "please help, we need some assistance, too!" Any conversation is turned around so that it's our 'fault' (which, I believe it takes two parties to tango); emails, hand-written letters and texts are ignored and rarely do they pick up the phone when I call.

I know there is something missing. Since we are new to the area, we don't talk much to others about this sort of stuff and all of our friends are busy with their own issues. I'm wondering if anyone has had a similar experience.

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Um, I thought I had a complicated family but - hey, nobody has ever sued me! I will count my blessings. Here are some suggestions. As context, I am married to someone with two very needy parents, along the lines you describe, including one with dementia (and by the way, her very nice facility in Santa Barbara is more like $8K/month). We have two kids, one with special needs, very busy, etc. His siblings are *interesting*, let's say (but at least I am an only child, so it kind of balances out).

1. Sit down with your husband and review the immediate household needs/wants of your nuclear family. Is the situation - leaving out the extended family dramz - good? Do you need adjustments in personal budget or household help or preschool schedule or work hours?

2. THEN, decide for yourself what your responses are to your half of the extended family, and review those with your husband so he's prepared to back you up. Do the same for his side of the family, but he's the lead on that. (Personally I would lean toward cutting off the litigous parent, but that's just me.)

3. Stop expecting any help from the extended family, obviously it's not happening so you are better off sourcing your help elsewhere. Expectations issue.

Believe me, I entirely get that it's not that simple when figuring out best care options for dementia when siblings may not be in agreement, but you can just tell your sister, "I can contribute X to a situation that I feel is a good fit for Dad. I don't think that's the present one. I can't contribute otherwise." So your sister will get mad... How does that affect you? It might not. Keep in mind also that researching dementia placements is an unbelievalbe hassle, and if you're not preparing to take on some of that task, your sister might not be up for it either and fair enough.

Keep breathing, and know that all crises pass. We were in the thick of it two years ago, last year was a lull, and this year is ramping up to be another doozy. Families, I tell you!

Wow! I have to say this sounds like a lot. I'm overwhelmed for you just by reading it. 

My husband and I have not been without our struggles with each set of parents; however, nothing near to this scale. My FIL has money struggles and some emotional/relationship issues that prevent him from having the bandwidth to look beyond his own needs. My MIL is beyond immature in her communication. I won't go into detail as that would just be me venting ;)

First of all, I sense you're looking for some validation that you are not crazy to think your family's demands are, well...crazy. I'm here to tell you - You're not! 

My mom is a therapist and uses a lot of non-violent communication practices. She recently encouraged me to review the "needs inventory" for a relationship issue I was having. It sounds like this might be something that would be helpful to you. Get clear on what you need, specifically, from each of your family members. Sometimes it's hard to dig through the layers to find out what your core need is, but I think once you do, you'll feel more comfortable and confident in how to communicate this to your family. 

Best of luck! Feel free to private message me if you need to vent or share anything more. 


Well, they certainly sound like a bunch of characters. It sounds to me like you're in a bit of a co-dependent web (sorry for the buzzword, but it's actually a useful categorization at its core) and what you need to do is detach. These are things I learned in Al-Anon, but that was years ago on the East Coast, and I haven't reconnected with the community here - something's different. Anywho, there are many places to learn about detachment and co-dependence, but let me give you the pep talk I would give you if you were sitting in my living room watching Lady Dynamite and sipping a hot toddy:

(a) You can not get help from these people, so stop considering them a resource for when you need help. It will not be forthcoming and you should not ever, ever count on it. It's a trap. 

(b) If you cannot pay for your family, then you can't pay. If your sister is on the front lines with your father's Alzheimer's care, then she is doing the heavy lifting and you have to just trust that, not try to get involved or redirect her to a cheaper option. It's a huge job. You don't have to have a long conversation about it, you just say "We don't have any money to spare right now, the answer is no. We just don't have it." Don't engage if they accuse you of lying or holding out on them. Just don't engage on that level. 

(c) Don't send "please help, we need some assistance, too!" requests. If you're already not ponying up for alzheimer's care, you can't ask for more. Do not consider the family a resource. 

(d) Hunker down, focus on your businesses and your family, and make very clear rules about how your family can engage with you. You don't have to talk to them. You don't have to deal with them. If they are toxic to you, politely decline to spend time with them. What you're describing is outrageous boundary-busting, and people will tell you you're wrong for having boundaries, but you are NEVER wrong for having boundaries. Say it again with me: "I AM NEVER WRONG FOR HAVING BOUNDARIES." 

I hope this helps. Your note is a little confusing, like I kind of can't figure out what's going on with au pairs or what's "your fault" in these conversations -- this is deep family crappity crap, and probably a therapist is your best bet for figuring out how to pull their invasive ivy out of your loam. 

Let me see if I understand:

- Your siblings, who are making the decisions about your father, because they are taking care of practical things, ask you to contribute to the expenses of taking care of your father.  So, they put money AND work; you are only asked for money, but can't help.

- Your siblings are asking only for money for your own father, while you need help with your own things. 

- At this point your needs are such that you can't help the people that raised you, which cost them time and money.

Unless you did a really poor job of describing your situation, the words that come to mind, that I would prefer to not use, are 'entitled' and 'selfish'.

I'm just weighing in to say that the $ amount for your dad with dementia is nuts. My elderly mom with dementia lives at The Tamalpais in Marin county, which is a super fancy place with tons of great care. She pays about $6500/mo. And that covers A LOT - plus it's actually a "lifecare" program, so they will always care for her. That number might be more like $8000 if your parent bought in now, because her payment is based on a contract from 10 years ago. But still - this is literally a top of the line place in one of the most expensive real estate markets in the US. Your costs for your dad are way too high. I have another parent in FL who lives in a very upscale place in Jupiter and they have a whole memory care area - and I know the costs are probably 30% less than my mom's payment. I would work with a mediator and financial planner and get that reduced, which will lower everyone's stress a bit.

Hey-o. I have one more thing to add after reading the other answers. I know you're really into this thing where you are both starting businesses, but if you can't get both businesses off the ground at the same time without asking for financial help from your extended family, then -- I'm sorry to tell you this -- you cannot afford to start both businesses at this time. One of you will have to get a "straight job" while the other devotes him/herself to the new business. Then, when that business is reliably established, the other spouse can have his or her turn to start a business. 

I know this will make you feel like a sad panda, but it's the reality you're hoping to avoid, now that I've re-read the original post. You do not have the luxury of depending on extended family, and you have to make some compromises. It's my opinion that you also need to find a way to pony up for your parents' care, but I have a feeling that will fall on deaf ears. 

One more thing: I think that once someone sues you, you're off the hook in terms of having to deal with them at all. It sounds like she sued and lost, and I'm sure she is pissed about that, and it is perfectly reasonable to cut off contact with someone who has sued you frivolously. If you continue to engage, then I'm afraid it looks a bit like you're complicit in wanting to create more drama. Give that a think. 

In terms of the cost of dementia care, my sister researched it for my mother, and a regular assisted care for my father in the same facility. It will cost $15,000 per month for the two of them in the New Jersey suburbs. The costs of this care is very high because the staffing levels need to be high. In terms of family relationships, since my sister is the one doing the work, she's the one who makes the decision. I'm grateful to her for doing the work. If my parents survive more than the three years it will take them to run out of money, I'm not sure what will happen next. It sounds like at least in your family, there isn't any extra bandwidth because of dealing with the dementia. I think you do need to look for other resources and support. It is ok to say that you can't help financially, and don't have time to help with your father's care, but I think your mother and your sister deserve appreciation for handling  a very difficult situation. Your husband needs to deal with his own family. Also, it does look like you and your husband have the skills/education to earn more money if you need that for your own finances, and you might need to delay starting your business until your children are in school, and the expenses are more under control.