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Ask Ellie: Keep spouse in the loop when caring for ailing parents

Responding to parents’ serious health needs is necessary. So is sharing information with your partner

Dear Ellie: What does one do when everything’s falling apart? My mother, 65, is already losing her memory. She loves my children but doesn’t remember to answer their texts and has “lost” her minimal tech skills. My father, 70, is preoccupied with medical issues, including bladder trouble.

I’m trying to stay helpful to both parents… driving mom to her doctor, the grocery store, etc. She’s become afraid to drive. I accompany dad to an emergency department if he’s in severe bladder pain. I call their doctors when its necessary.

Meanwhile, my husband dislikes my being too busy and distracted to spend time with him.

But I believe I have no other choice than being fully involved. My younger brother lives in a different province. He says he’s overwhelmed with his own workload but will come here when things get more serious. I hate to think this way but I assume he means “when the time comes,” when one or both of our parents are dying.

I love my husband dearly and also miss having free time to enjoy just being with him, taking walks together, seeing friends. I’d also love more time now with the kids (ages nine and seven), but I’m happy that they’re currently at a day camp, not far from our house. I can walk there to pick them up if necessary.

But how do I follow my parents’ lifetime example of always helping out those who need it, and also always considering your partner’s needs to keep your relationship strong?

Pulled in Several Directions

Choosing the top priority is simple when someone close is at serious risk. But with both your parents experiencing difficult health challenges, you need focussed energy and shared decision-making with those you trust, including relatives who are also affected.

You especially need your husband’s support. But if you’re too preoccupied to share what you’re learning/deciding, and also avoiding private time together because of your stress, you’re sadly losing connection.

Meanwhile, your children’s happy summer is a blessing, but they still need some information about their grandparents. Keep it simple and hopeful. Encourage their drawing “Feel Better” cards which you can deliver for them.

Deal with the big issues one day at a time, not all at once. And remember your parents’ own wise advice to “consider your partner’s needs, to keep your relationship strong.”

Dear Ellie: My daughter-in-law has never liked us and openly stated this to our son. She’s a teacher and told us that she knows everything.

She has constant migraines and uses this as an excuse to skip family functions.

Now, she won’t allow her two children to attend a family cottage outing with their cousins.

She made her 10-year-old daughter afraid to leave her mother because “Mummy will be so lonely.” Our son won’t interfere.

Sounds like Munchausen syndrome and I fear for the grandkids’ sanity. Please advise.

Wit’s End

Forget “diagnosing” someone you don’t like. Yes, she doesn’t like you/your family and finds reasons to avoid you, possibly using fake illness.

Your son’s reluctance to deal with this estrangement isn’t helping. No wonder. With “constant migraines” as her excuse, she’s instilling fear/worry in her young daughter.

Seek an appointment, online or in person, with a psychiatrist, over this behaviour which could become seriously harmful to your granddaughter. Then, with expert information, tell your son he must learn how to “save” the girl from perversely disturbed behaviour that can be considered child abuse.

FEEDBACK regarding the “dismissed” son-in-law (July 13, 2022):

Reader – “Early symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease is for someone to reduce the size of their social circle.

“My sister had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, but no one knew that fact. One by one, she cut people out of her life — long-time friends, parents, siblings and good neighbours. She said hurtful things and avoided all contact.

“When she was diagnosed 15-plus years after those early, unrecognized signs and put on appropriate medication, she renewed those relationships.

“It’s sad that we didn’t recognize what the pattern of behaviour meant.

“I hope that the writer’s father-in-law can have some cognitive testing to determine if he actually may have dementia.”

Been There

FEEDBACK Regarding the 40-year-old woman “lost” since her deeply-loved father recently died (July 25):

Reader – “Don’t ignore your health. Eat nutritiously. Exercise, even 15-minutes walks. Try to get good sleep each night.

“Also, while you’re experiencing grief, it’s okay to NOT feel okay.”

Ellie’s tip of the day

Responding to parents’ serious health needs is necessary. So is sharing information with your partner.

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