fbpx How Do I Ask My Family for More Information Regarding My Mom’s Health?
Authored by Dr. Michelle Murray on March 29, 2022
Dear Dr. Michelle:

My mom is very sick. She has cancer and other serious medical conditions. She is still able to care for herself and is highly capable, but she and my dad are horrible about sharing information. I never really know what is going on with her medical condition. My sister can visit them more in person and tends to get more information about the situation, but my sister and I don’t get along and are not currently speaking. My mom has a serious procedure coming up and I really want to know more, but there is just no way I can talk to my sister. I am so upset with my sister for not keeping me in the loop and driving a wedge between us. She takes no responsibility for the harm she has done to our relationship. I don’t need her and would be fine having no relationship with her except for the fact that she has the information about my mom’s health. What should I do to deal with this situation if talking to my sister is not an option?Anna

Dear Anna:

I am sorry to hear that your mom is dealing with so many health problems and that you are not feeling knowledgeable or aware of her condition. I am sure that you are trying to determine how best to be there for her. 

Talking With Your Sister vs. Your Mom

If you consider your sister your only source for information for your mom’s health, you have two options: you either don’t talk to her and remain unaware of your mom’s condition, or you talk to your sister and find out what you need to know. If you are not willing to talk to your sister, it might be time to resign yourself to not knowing. I would encourage you to evaluate if not knowing about your mom’s health condition is worth not talking to your sister.

I would also like you to consider another approach. You are putting a lot of emphasis on your relationship with your sister. While there is no doubt there might be serious issues going on between the two of you, your current situation is not about your relationship with your sister, it is about your relationship with your mom. You mentioned that your mom is capable. Under this circumstance, it is not your sister’s responsibility to inform you of your mom’s current health condition. 

I encourage you to take matters into your own hands by talking directly to your mom. If you really want to know what is going on, it is your responsibility to reach out to her and have a conversation. Rather than focusing on the difficulties with your sister, focus on why you are not reaching out to your mom and trying to address those issues. Are you worried she won’t tell you, or that she doesn’t want to tell you, or that she doesn’t really know accurate information? Whatever your reasons, make those part of your conversation with your mom.

Approach the Conversation With Care and Support

To be successful, prepare to be open and honest with your mom about your true feelings. Try not to put her on the defensive by making your lack of information her fault. In fact, try not to focus on the past. Tell your mom how important it is for you to know about her health, and tell her why – because you love her, you care about her, you want to help her, and because it is important for you to know when you need to be there with her. Then tell her specifically what you need to know. Do you need to have contact with her doctors? In which case you need to work with your mom to sign a release of information so you can talk directly to her doctors. Do you need to know her diagnosis or names of medications or procedures? Then ask her to tell you, or if she says she does not know, ask her to spell the words to you from her paperwork so that you can look up the information and do the research on your own.

Be prepared for the possibility that your mom does not want to tell you details. If this is the case, consider why that might be and talk to her directly about why she doesn’t want to share. Is she protecting you? If so, why? Do you give her reason to not share? Is she worried about your judgement or criticism of her, or afraid you will tell her what to do? 

Most parents do not want their children telling them what to do, and as a result will keep information at bay. Be prepared to allow your mom to be in control of her health decisions without judgement. Can you support her in what she decides to do or not do? Be sure you demonstrate this by being curious and listening rather than telling her what to do or demanding that she do something different.

In summary, focus on you and your mom. Talk directly to her about your questions and what you need to know. Ask her to consider sharing information with you and ask her what she needs from you for her to be more comfortable to do so. Be direct about what you want. If your mom is not capable of having this conversation with you, then turn to your dad for answers and try the same approach with him. Just remember, if you get nowhere with this approach, this is still about your relationship with your parents, not about your relationship with your sister.  

Dr. Michelle K. Murray, CEO of Nexus Family Healing and licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, answers questions about family relations or mental health. Submit Your Question.

Dear Dr. Michelle blog posts are informational in nature.  The posts are not meant to take the place of consulting your physician, mental health professional, or other qualified health providers regarding your well-being or the well-being of others. Submitting a question does not establish a client/therapist relationship.

Submit Your Question on mental health and/or family relations to Dr. Michelle K. Murray.

Dr. Michelle Murray