My stepsister is 78 and is nursing her 80-year-old husband who has had a stroke, heart bypass surgery and suffers from diabetes. He's still mobile, to an extent, but demands 24-hour attention - which she gives to him with no help at all because he refuses to accept anyone else looking after him.

Aside from going to the doctor, he won't leave the house. He just wants to be a recluse, sitting for hours at his computer or watching TV. He's bullied my sister for years now, and she's told me she hates him and is just waiting for him to die.

Even so, she goes on caring for him. While my other sister and I visit to check up on her as much as we can, we think the strain is killing her and that she could die first. I've told her to stop shouting at him so much and to get some help around the house, but what else can we do?

G. H.


Your stepsister's anger and resentment is understandable, and it could be that she feels brave enough to express feelings she's repressed for many years, because her husband is now vulnerable.

Her husband is no doubt stressed too. He's facing difficult health conditions and his demanding behaviour, bullying and need for seclusion may be his way of coping with this stress. I know you want to help, but with so many issues, now is not the time for you to mediate their problems further.

Even if it's well-intentioned, amateur interference between a husband and wife is almost always a mistake. Your stepsister's problems are deep-rooted, and I suspect will need professional help to resolve. What you can do, however, is steer her towards some professional organisations that can help.

I know her husband is reluctant to accept another carer, but your stepsister must find a way to make this happen. Her health is already suffering, and from what you have said, she desperately needs to take a break.

I suggest that, in the first instance, she contacts the Carers Trust ( This charity offers a wealth of advice and is also a portal to many other support services. It also manages a countrywide network of local partner groups. Advice, information and support can also be obtained from Carers UK ( which has a dedicated phone advice line (0808 808 7777).

If your stepsister can at least arrange some time away, through either of these organisations, I am sure her health and wellbeing will improve. To get to grips with her anger and resentment, I suggest that she also contacts Relate ( A chat with a trained counsellor can help her to cope with these feelings, and they can also suggest strategies for avoiding them in future.

Beyond this, please continue to offer as much of your love and time as possible. This is a difficult situation, but the support of family and friends goes a long way to share the load. Good luck.

Readers in Scotland can contact Relationships Scotland ( as an alternative to Relate.