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When children should step in to help parents

Posted: October 1, 2010 12:18 p.m.
Updated: October 1, 2010 12:18 p.m.

Dear Annie: I am concerned about my mother, a 66-year-old widow of 15 years. When my father was alive, Mom worked full time, kept a reasonably clean house and raised two children by herself. (My father was an alcoholic who was not around much.) In the years since Dad died, however, the house has gone to ruin.

The problem is, my sister and extended family convinced me to let Mom move into one of my properties. My sister cleans it once every six months. Each time, they remove 10 huge bags of garbage. By the way, Mom works full time, and her supervisors are always talking about how professional and neat her work area is. They even use her as an example when training new employees.

Now the property is infested with fleas. Mom says she doesn't notice them. I cannot get rid of the fleas until the house is cleaned. I work full time and have two children, one with severe special needs. I do not have the time or energy to take care of my mother, too.

I know Mom is depressed, but I cannot convince her to get help. My sister has also tried to talk with her. I want to evict her, but my family is against it. After all, she is my mother. But I cannot afford to have her ruin my property. I am struggling to get by on what little I have.

My uncle will be visiting soon, and he's one of the few people my mother respects. I was thinking of discussing this with him and having him invite himself to her house so he can see for himself. Maybe it would be a wakeup call. What do you say? -- At a Loss

Dear Loss: We think anyone who can get through to your mother is worth talking to. Evicting her will make you the pariah of the family and will not solve the problem. It's possible Mom has some depression or early dementia. Right now, the best solution would be for the relatives to contribute to a fund in order to hire someone to clean her place every month (or more). Then make an appointment for her to see her doctor for an evaluation. You also can contact the International OCD Foundation (ocfoundation.org) for support and suggestions.

Dear Annie: While moving things out of my son's room this summer, we came across a box of thank-you notes and addressed envelopes that were apparently never sent for an event that happened two years ago. Which is worse: sending the thank-you notes two years late or not at all? -- Struggling with Two Bad Options

Dear Struggling: They should be sent, along with a note of explanation and an expression of regret for not having mailed them in a more timely fashion. Ideally, your son should be the one to do this. If that is not possible, please do it on his behalf. Those who sent a gift deserve to know it arrived and was appreciated.

Dear Annie: My grown son lives several hours away, but we keep in contact through phone, e-mail and text. When I spoke with my father yesterday, I discovered he had generously signed over one of his vehicles to my son. This transaction took place more than a week ago, and yet my son made no mention of it.

I knew he must have been very excited and sent him an e-mail saying I had just heard the good news, although I was hurt that he hadn’t said anything. His response absolutely floored me. He said he didn’t understand why my feelings were hurt, since the transaction was between his grandfather and him and didn’t concern me.

I am beside myself. Am I being unrealistic, or was this an extremely rude response? -- California

Dear California: Sorry, Mom. Your son is a grown man. He is entitled to acquire a car from Grandpa or anyone else without telling you about it. It doesn’t mean he isn’t close to you. But the sooner you can respect his independence and privacy the less likely your feelings are to be hurt.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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