Dear Annie: Last week, my stepfather called me to say that my 78-year-old mother came downstairs complaining that her “brain wasn’t working right” and that she was dizzy. She sat at the table for an hour before getting herself breakfast and doing the crossword puzzle. Then she asked him the same crossword question three times in three minutes.
My husband said Mom may have had a stroke and that she should get to the emergency room. I suggested this to my stepfather, but he said he wasn’t going to do that on a Saturday. So I called Mom’s doctor, who said to bring her in to the hospital so they could see whether she’d had a stroke and, if so, monitor her blood pressure.
I told my stepfather what the doctor said, and now he is angry with me, saying I overstepped my authority. He said it was not my place to call Mom’s doctor and get her the help she needs. Later, when I spoke to my mother, she was surprised by all this and agreed to see her doctor.
Mom has shown other signs of short-term memory loss, but never this bad before. They live about an hour away from us. How much should I help, and how much should I mind my own business? – Worried About Mom
Dear Worried: It is not uncommon for people to minimize the health problems of spouses. It is much easier for your stepfather to believe his wife will be just fine although the fact that he called you with the original information indicates that he was worried.
Instead of telling him what to do or doing it behind his back, include him in these decisions. Pay a visit to Mom, and sit down with both of them. Explain that Mom’s doctor is concerned that her dizziness and forgetfulness could be serious. Ask if you could accompany Mom to the next doctor’s appointment. Ask how you can help make this easier for both of them. Let him know you are counting on him.