Lifelines: Anne Chilton on Carer responsibilities

Anne gives advice on two common problems when it comes to caring for our loved ones.


I look after my dad, who’s getting older and can’t do things as well as he did before. I call in at least twice a day and do his shopping and anything else that needs doing.

Over the past year, he has needed more from me and now I’m at his beck and call. My older sister lives away and comes back for a flying visit a couple of times a year. When she’s here, he’s like a different person – lively and chatty, doing all the things he says he can’t do when it’s just me and him. Then he is exhausted for the week after her visit. She then says I am just making it up when I say he is getting frailer and needing more help.

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I want to go away on holiday and asked if she would come and look after him, but she says he doesn’t need any help and won’t come. I’m exhausted and at my wits’ end.

It is infuriating when someone makes a huge effort for one person but not the other. It sounds like your dad knows he can rely on you, whereas your sister is only around occasionally. There is often a difference between how we present ourselves publicly and privately, and it seems your sister gets the ‘put on a show’ view. I wonder if your dad feels more at ease with you and is able to show you how it really is for him. Maybe your sister doesn’t want to see that he is frailer; wanting, rather, to pretend all is well.

Being able to adapt to our parents’ changing needs as they get older can be tough. If your sister won’t help, maybe you need to contact a local carers’ centre, where you can get advice on what services are available. Most importantly, they’ll listen and take seriously your concerns.


At the beginning of the year I met a great bloke, and we intend to get married in a couple of months. There is only one problem: his sister. She works, but still lives with his mum and dad as she has a learning disability.

I get on well with her and she is quite independent, but she idolises my partner and has told me that when the parents get too old she will be living with us. He seems to accept this but I don’t know if I can handle it. I never envisaged being a carer, and I’m not sure I could cope with it. How do I tell him?

When we get married, we not only gain a partner, we get their family as well. This often causes problems, as what seems perfectly normal to them may seem like something alien to us.

Your partner has grown up with his sister, knowing that she has a learning disability and all that this might entail. For you, this is something new and something you didn’t have as part of your dream for the future. Your fear seems to be that by saying something you will upset things.

I wonder if what you really want to say is not that you can’t cope, but that you’re scared about what the future might hold. It sounds like his sister is scared too, wondering if you coming along will change things. Talk to your partner about how worried you are.

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• Anne Chilton is joint head of professional practice at Relationships Scotland