Dear Annie: My friend “Horace” is 75. He spends a lot of time with “Loretta,” a childhood friend who is experiencing some dementia. It is getting to the point where Loretta doesn’t remember how to do many of the things she used to be exceptional at, and of course, it makes her frustrated and agitated.
This gal is a widow with children, and her husband left her a profitable business. The children have never liked any of the guys she’s dated, but they tolerate Horace because he is now her unpaid caregiver. The only other person who is around the house is a part-time secretary for the company.
The kids recently had a letter drawn up to notify Horace that he should not expect anything from Loretta’s estate when she dies. He is well-off already, so that doesn’t matter. The kids otherwise keep a hands-off approach when it comes to their mother. They deny that she suffers from any dementia, and we doubt her doctor is aware of it – her kids won’t report it, and Loretta says nothing because she is afraid they will put her in a nursing home.
Loretta feels lost when Horace isn’t around. It is also getting more difficult to calm her down when she becomes agitated. I am concerned about Horace because I think the kids are taking advantage of his devotion. If something should happen to her, I can see them blaming him. He is already losing sleep over her episodes, and I know her condition worries him. How can Horace protect himself, as well as Loretta, without upsetting the kids? — M.
Dear M: Could Horace accompany Loretta to her next doctor’s appointment and discuss her dementia? (He also could write to the doctor, explaining his concerns.) It would be best if Horace could convince Loretta’s children to pay more attention to her care, letting them know that she needs more than he can provide. If she can no longer live alone, it would be preferable that the kids hire a caregiver or place Loretta in an assisted-living complex or continuing-care facility where someone will check on her before she burns down the house. She still could retain some independence. Horace also can contact the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov) at 800-677-1116 and ask about available resources.
Dear Annie: Is there a polite way to tell family and friends that you don’t want a Christmas gift? My wife and I are getting up there in years. If we need or want something, we buy it. All we really want is quality time with our family members, not useless gifts. — Salem Ore.
Dear Salem: It is perfectly OK to tell your family and friends that this year you’d like nothing more than a gift of their time. Don’t make comments about how useless their material gifts would be. Say only that at this point you cherish visits with the important people in your lives. If these same people choose to buy you something anyway, please accept it graciously, say thank you, and then donate it to charity.
Dear Annie: “Young and Stuck’s” husband mirrors the distancing behavior of my husband, which led to our divorce. Now, more than 60 years later, I have read of similar behavior in descriptions of concussion victims, particularly athletes in contact sports.
At the age of 16, my husband played high school football and had two concussions. As he grew more distant in our marriage, I noted his glassy, fixed stare and flat expression. After our divorce, he married several more times and went through bankruptcy. “Stuck” needs to get her husband in for a neurological exam and find a good counselor for herself. — Also Stuck and Poor
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.