Dear Annie: My husband’s parents are in their mid-70s. They are both in good health and financially stable. The problem is, my mother-in-law has a bit of hypochondria along with some anxiety. She has self-diagnosed herself with many “syndromes” (such as fibromyalgia, restless leg, irritable bowel), and she refuses to exercise. Her syndromes, which are exacerbated by her anxiety, keep her from getting out of the house, unless it involves an activity that she truly enjoys, like shopping.
My in-laws don’t have a wide social circle, and Mom refuses to try to make new friends. You can’t have a conversation with her without the topic turning to her various maladies. I believe this is causing her some depression. Our town has many great programs for seniors, and I know both of my in-laws would benefit from them. I have repeatedly suggested to my mother-in-law that she get outside more, get some exercise, volunteer, take classes at the senior center, etc., but she refuses.
Annie, I understand that Mom may have some physical ailments, but being home all day and inactive surely can’t be making her better. It’s so important to remain physically and mentally active, and it’s frustrating to see a wonderful couple, a wonderful woman, throw her “golden years” away. – Frustrated Daughter-in-Law
Dear Daughter-in-Law: Your heart is in the right place, but please don’t pressure your mother-in-law to take care of herself the way you would. While exercise would be great, it only works if she’s willing to do it. To some extent, she likes her various maladies and isn’t ready to get rid of them. The best you can do right now is suggest that she see her doctor to be properly tested, evaluated and treated. And if you find a program at the senior center that you think she would like, offer to pick her up and go with her.