Dear Annie: My sister, “Rita,” lives with my widowed mother. Mom is 73 and in a wheelchair. She has a hard time getting out the front door on her own, so she never goes out without Rita. She won’t take the handicapped bus, because she thinks it would be too hard and doesn’t like to keep to the bus schedule. She won’t take her motorized scooter to the library, because she’s scared the battery will die. Honestly, all I hear from her is “I can’t.”
Rita works all day, comes home, cleans the mess Mom makes trying to “help,” and then follows a detailed list of what Mom thinks she should do. Mom won’t let Rita sleep late on weekends and is furious if she spends extra time at the gym instead of at home.
I know Mom is lonely. Her friends have all passed on, the rest of the family lives out of state, and she is in a lot of pain. Mom thinks she is too young to go to a senior center and refuses to call organizations like AARP or get involved in anything. Rita is being run ragged and has no time for herself. I want to help, but I live across the country. What can I do? – Helpless Daughter
Dear Helpless: People move into senior communities in their 50s, so your mother’s insistence that she is “too young” is simply her way of keeping Rita at her beck and call. Mom isn’t just lonely. She’s frightened. And although Rita is being a devoted daughter, her caregiving enables Mom’s isolation and dependence. Can Rita drop Mom off at a senior day care center in the morning? Can you hire someone to get Mom out of the house during the day once or twice a week? Would you take Mom to live with you for a month so Rita can get a break? Check out the Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver.org) at (800) 445-8106 for information and resources.
Dear Annie: A good friend asked if anyone would be willing to lend their home to host a surprise 30th birthday party for his wife and said he would compensate them. I happily volunteered.
My wife insisted I could not accept any compensation, so I told my friend the party was our gift to his wife. The party turned out great, but this morning my friend stopped by with a thank-you note and a check for $100.
My wife says I can’t cash it, it’s not proper etiquette, I’m cheap, etc. I say if I made it clear we didn’t expect anything, but he still chose to compensate us, we should accept it. I think he’d be offended if we were to give it back. What is proper? – Accused of Being Cheap
Dear Accused: It is OK to accept compensation. However, if your wife disagrees and you think your friend will be offended if you return the check, donate it to charity in the birthday girl’s name.