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Friends Shutting Family Out
Jul 13, 2003

Mr. Shernoff, My brother is diagnosed with HIV related neurological degeneration and is living in a board and care home on the west coast. He is blind, unable to communicate verbally, or in writing. I have tried repeatedly to get information about his condition from his friends but to no avail. The home manager even hung up the phone on me. We are being portrayed as villains because we have not contributed financially to his care, and have been estranged (although in some contact) for the last 30 years. I am frustrated and guilty over this situation. My elderly parents have not made any attempts to be in touch with him since he became so ill. I am not able to make the trip across the country so I must rely on others for information. What can I do to let my brother know I am thinking of him and to alleviate my guilt over all of this? Thanks.

Response from Mr. Shernoff

All you can do is to write to him and tell him how you are feeling and hope that your letter will be read to him. In terms of your guilt that is another matter that only you can work on. Perhaps you need to work with a therapist to understand your role in the current situation and try to make peace with it. It is obviously a very complex situation complicated by his blindness, and inability to verbally communicate directly. There may not be anything you can do since you are unable to make the trip across the country and even if you did, there is not any guaranteee that he would agree to see you if you did just show up. If he has not legally designated that his freinds or health care facility share information with you, then there is not any way you can force them to discuss his condition. I know that this must be very hard for you and your parents to live with, but it seems like the situation may jsut now be beyond the point of correcting it. If that is the case, then all you can do is to accept it.

Michael Shernoff, MSW



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