Annie's mailbox: Neighbor's family disrespectful, rude

Dear Annie: My next-door neighbor, "Tillie," is in her 90s. She is able-bodied, but her mind is slowly slipping. We had a great relationship until she allowed her nephew, his wife, their son and the son's girlfriend to move in.

Not only are these relatives rude to us and all the other neighbors, but they treat Tillie with little respect. She's out shoveling the walk at 7 a.m. when there are four healthy adults in her home. She now lives in her basement while they have taken over the main part of the house. We suspect they are waiting for her to die so they can keep the place.

I fear these people are only with her for an inheritance. What can we as concerned neighbors do to better Tillie's situation?

- Confused in Canada

Dear Confused: You can check on Tillie often, dropping by to see how she's doing, inviting her for coffee, letting those relatives know you are keeping tabs on her situation. If you suspect there is any kind of abuse going on - physical, emotional or financial contact the Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (cnpea.ca) or the Public Health Agency of Canada (publichealth.gc.ca) at 130 Colonnade Rd., A.L. 6501H, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0K9. (In the U.S., contact the National Center on Elder Abuse at ncea.aoa.gov.)

Dear Annie: My husband is a dedicated teacher. Since we work different hours, there are only a few evenings when we are able to be together. My husband just made plans for a couple we know to spend the night at our house because it was the start of their school vacation week and they live out of state. He barely had mentioned this to me, and we never discussed any concrete plans. Yet, he told them it was OK.

On the rare nights I'm home, my husband spends so much time on the phone with co-workers and friends, I feel left out. What message (between the lines) does that send to me when these plans are not finalized by both of us?

- Concern Warranted

Dear Concern: Your husband has created his own separate social life, which is why he felt entitled to make plans without consulting you. This partly is because of your incompatible work schedules but also because he has common ground with fellow teachers and finds their input valuable and reassuring.

When he wants to talk, he turns to them instead of you. But you can fix this if you address it directly and work on ways to improve your communication and commitment. If you cannot do it on your own, please consider professional counseling.

Dear Annie: I have never written before, but had to respond to "Dad's Crazy," whose 51-year-old divorced father let a 28-year-old single mother move in with him. Eighteen years ago, one of my husband's children could have written that letter.

When I was 28, I was having financial problems because of some health issues. Six months earlier, I had met a 50-year-old man who was going through a divorce. He was lonely and had a house with three bedrooms. He offered to let me move in for a small amount of rent and some help around the house. Four years later, we were married. He is the love of my life. I have four stepchildren who are younger than I am and eight grandchildren. I am part of a loving, caring family and can't imagine what my life would be like without them.

This could be the best thing that ever happened to Dad or a huge mistake, but either way, I hope "Dad's Crazy" won't shut her father out. She should let him make the decision about how his life should play out - and I hope with all my heart that she and her son will be a part of it.

- Happier Now

Dear Happier: Thanks for sharing your story. We, too, hope she can be accepting of Dad's new life and the people who are part of it.

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