An overly-helpful sister

Dear Ms. Meniscus:

I am a man with RA. Yes, I know that is not very common, but here’s my problem. I live with my sister who is overly solicitous. She waits on me 24-hours a day. Literally. There is coffee on my night stand every morning before I wake up. She takes care of the house, does all the shopping. I swear, she’d wash my back if I told her I had trouble reaching it.

Sounds like heaven right? It’s not. I’m going crazy, but sometimes I do need help so I’m afraid to make an issue out of this. Now here’s the worst part. It’s been going on for eight years and I’m now 59. She has no idea.

Signed:

Now what?

Dear Now what,

I imagine that some readers may read about the issue you are having with your sister and become incensed.  Many people feel isolated by their chronic illness, sometimes not having a sympathetic ear or willing friend to lend a hand when they need it most. But you appear to have the exact opposite experience. Can someone be too thoughtful towards your needs or what they perceive your needs to be?

It is obvious that your sister feels some kind of responsibility toward you; otherwise, she would not trouble herself taking care of you so thoroughly – as irritating as it may seem. You need to determine what exactly you are capable of doing on your own and talking to you sister about it. Don’t approach her from the aspect that she is driving you nuts, but that you would like to contribute more to the house. A sense of independence and feeling useful / needed will make you to feel less like a drain on society, but rather a contributing member.

Explain to her that you are still functional, and that you would like to help with chores and responsibilities around the house if you are able. Since she has been doing these things for you so long, who knows, she may even be sick of doing it all herself!

Finally, make sure to thank your sister, and show her that you appreciate her support over the past eight years. I’m sure it hasn’t been a cake walk, and you don’t want her to feel her efforts have gone unnoticed and unacknowledged.

–M

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