Annie's Mailbox for Feb. 25, 2011: Concerned for in-laws' health

Dear Annie: We daughters-in-law have a problem. Our in-laws are unable to care for themselves. More than 10 years ago, Mom developed a brain tumor. She's lost her long-term memory, and her personality went from sweet to the complete opposite. Dad has been a saint caring for her.

All of the siblings contribute as much time and money as we can, but we don't all live close by, and we have our own health problems and other obligations. Both Mom and Dad are diabetic and overweight. Family members bring in food, and they are signed up for Meals on Wheels, but they still don't eat enough protein. They also smell of urine, and we're not sure how often they bathe. We have arranged to do their laundry and for someone to clean the house every week.

Mom wears adult diapers, but still has accidents. She falls a lot, and Dad cannot pick her up. She has a medical alarm that occasionally is set off accidentally in the middle of the night. Dad takes his hearing aids out when he sleeps and doesn't hear the telephone call from the company or from us, and Mom won't answer the phone. My husband ends up rushing there in the wee hours, and it wreaks havoc on his workday.

Dad doesn't think they can afford to go into assisted living. He's afraid if they sell the house, they will run out of money before they die. We have asked our husbands to talk to Dad, but they haven't. Should we contact their doctors? What do we do next?

— Help, Please

Dear Help: You are caring daughters-in-law to take on this responsibility. By all means, talk to their doctors so they are aware of all factors regarding your in-laws' health. You can check out in-home support and other options through the Eldercare Locator (www.eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116. Or, for a fee, you can arrange a consultation through the National Assn. of Professional Geriatric Care Managers at caremanager.org.

Dear Annie: Does it ever drive you crazy that you get only one side of the story from people asking your advice?

My sister used to be under the care of a psychiatrist, and she would relate some of the stuff she told the therapist. From my perspective, her therapist was getting an awfully slanted view of the facts, with my sister portraying herself in the best possible light. How is it possible to give useful advice if your understanding of the situation might well be skewed? -- Just Wondering

Dear Wondering: We understand quite well that we are only getting one side of the story -- it's the only one available to us. Even so, for the person writing, that is their reality, and the only way to help is to acknowledge it as such and work from there. We are, however, more fortunate than psychiatrists because our readers are eager to weigh in and give us an earful of the "other side" of the story.

Dear Annie: I would like to add another suggestion for "Paranoid," the 15-year-old victim of a home burglary.

I suggest she call the family court in her locale and ask to speak to a victim's assistance counselor. Many municipalities offer myriad services, programs and counseling through their courts that are effective and oftentimes free. In addition, many places have funds set aside for victims of crimes to get whatever help they may need.

Even if the family court itself offers no services, an officer or counselor at the court could direct this teen to any number of resources in the community.

— Carol in Kirkwood, Mo.

Dear Carol: Thanks to all the readers who wrote in with suggestions and letters of support. We appreciate your concern.

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