Dear Annie: My in-laws live in a condominium about 35 miles from us. We visit them once a month. My father-in-law does not move around very well and is incontinent. He seldom leaves the condo. My mother-in-law still walks, but only to the grocery store or doctor’s office. She is obviously beginning to slow down.
We know there will come a day when they are no longer able to stay in the condo. However, they have no intention of moving into a retirement community. They say, “We don’t want to live in a place where there are only old people.” Meanwhile, they know no one in their condo building, where they have lived for 20 years, nor do they visit friends elsewhere.
Several months ago, my in-laws bought a miniature poodle puppy that can only be described as neurotic. If anyone enters the condo, it will either hide or sit in a corner and growl. My father-in-law says the dog would get used to us if we visited more often, and once a month apparently isn’t often enough.
Annie, we have three very active children, not to mention a house and chores and jobs to take care of. We visit the in-laws as often as possible, but we cannot see them every weekend simply so their dog can get to know us better. My husband says they are lonely and isolated, but I don’t think that is our responsibility. This is really beginning to become a problem. Please help. – Had It in Maryland
Dear Maryland: Your husband is right – your in-laws are lonely. You are not responsible for their unwillingness to reach out to neighbors and friends, but try to be a bit more compassionate. Since you are too busy to see them more often, suggest your husband visit his parents on his own. You also can look into caregiving services if their health interferes with their mobility.