DEAR ABBY: Please allow me to respond to "No Thanks! Sacramento, Calif." (Feb. 7). Having also grown up with a disabled sibling, I empathize with her distress and feeling "saddled" with an obligation of caring for her younger mentally retarded sister.
I recommend she talk to her school counselor, who may be able to assist with family counseling. Once her sister turns 18, she may be eligible for public assistance as well as other state programs. Many nonprofit organizations are available to assist disabled citizens after their parents have passed, so the sole burden does not fall upon the sibling's shoulders.
My mother has conservatorship over my brother's medical affairs, while a local nonprofit organization oversees his financial affairs. When Mother passes, there is a small trust fund set aside for him that I will manage. I will then become his medical conservator. Everything is set up in a way that I can care for my brother while maintaining a life separate from him. -- LISA IN SAN DIEGO
DEAR LISA: I was enlightened by the responses that poured in offering additional recommendations that may alleviate the concerns of both "No Thanks" and her mother. Thank you for sharing yours. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I am a senior support coordinator (futures and estate planning) with The Arc of Frederick County, Md. The concerns "No Thanks" has about being completely responsible for her sister's care are frequently expressed by siblings of children with disabilities. Fortunately, there are many possibilities for her family that would allow the best of both worlds.
The Arc (www.arcfc.org) offers information and support in almost every state. We serve individuals with disabilities and their families and can assist with plan development.
Thank you for printing the letter from this young lady, Abby. She echoes the concerns of siblings around the world, and there IS an answer. -- KARLA IN FREDERICK, MD.
DEAR ABBY: As the mother and sister of special-needs people, I understand both "NT's" and her mother's points of view. You recommend a "group living situation" for her sister, but unfortunately there aren't nearly enough group homes to meet the large (and growing) demand for them. "Becky" should get on a housing wait list as soon as possible.
Her parents should contact the special-ed department at the local high school. The department is aware of organizations that can help with Becky's needs. Also, the parents should make financial arrangements for Becky's future. My parents did these things for my brother, and I am very grateful. -- SEES BOTH SIDES IN COLUMBIA, MD.
DEAR ABBY: I am mom to a 15-year-old son with autism, bipolar disorder and mental retardation. I also have a daughter who is 12.
One day, when my daughter was only 8, we explained that most adults move out of their parents' home and into a place of their own. I explained that eventually her brother would be moving into a group home with others like him.
My daughter said: "I love my brother, but I don't think I want him to live with me when we grow up. Is it OK if I visit him and make sure he has the things that make him happy? He could come to my house for holidays and birthdays."
Perhaps, if "No Thanks" shows this to her mother, they can both see the compromise and have a little peace of mind. -- BEEN THERE IN OREGON