Dear Annie: My wife and I are caught up in our son’s dysfunctional marriage. “Martin” and his wife have three children together, and he has an older child from a previous marriage. All of the children are wonderful. They do well in school. But their mom and dad hate each other, drink too much and fight constantly.
Martin was recently fired after several incidents at work, some of them physical. They lost their home and now rent. They each accuse the other of being crazy and stupid. They do not communicate in any way. They have given up hope of ever being happy or achieving anything.
We listen to them and can’t decide who is right or wrong. We think they are both at fault, but we have no idea how to help them. They’ve been to counseling and thought it was a joke. We’re getting too old for this.
Usually Have an Answer
Dear Usually: There is no definitive “right” or “wrong.” Your son and his wife have an alcohol problem and other issues that they are not addressing. No one should endure such an unhappy life if things can be done to make it better.
Please urge them to go back to counseling for their children’s sake. If they didn’t like the first counselor, they can look for someone who is a better fit. They can go separately or together. They also should look for a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous, and the kids can check out Alateen (al-anon.alateen.org). In the meantime, please offer to take those children into your home as often as possible so they have some semblance of stability.
Dear Annie: My widowed mother is 79 years old and has been diagnosed with mild dementia that is getting progressively worse. She lives alone, and I am 10 minutes away.
Here’s my question: What is the best way to care for my mother? When will I know the time is right to place her in a nursing home? What kind of facility is best? I have a sister, but she has nothing to do with me. I feel alone and naive about Mom’s care. Do you have any suggestions?
Doing It Myself
Dear Doing: A lot of this is dictated by finances. Can your mother afford round-the-clock care in her own home? That is often the kindest solution. Is there an affordable CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) that offers independent living, followed by assisted living, followed by nursing home care as needed? You can contact the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116 to find resources in your area. Or, if you can afford it, you can get help navigating your options by hiring a private care manager through the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at caremanager.org.
Dear Annie: My heart goes out to “A Regretful Grandma,” who grieves her grandchild aborted 40 years ago. Your advice to seek grief counseling was excellent, but many counselors are not trained or sensitive to this particular kind of grief.
I would like to let Regretful Grandma and others know about the National Office of Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing (noparh.org) at 1-800-5WE-CARE. They offer both secular and religious resources and referrals, and their website has a page just for grandparents.
Reader in Baton Rouge
Dear Annie: You were too nice to “Washington,” who had borrowed money from her in-laws to help pay for her two daughters’ weddings and then borrowed more when her husband lost his job. She didn’t tell the brides because she wanted them to glory in their wedding days without any stress. Then she was upset when her in-laws did not send Christmas gifts to the daughters.
“Washington” sounds as though she has a huge sense of entitlement. I would have told her to grow up and stop borrowing money for things like weddings.
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