Annie's Mailbox for Jan. 28, 2011: Concerned about mother-in-law's mental state

Dear Annie: Last August, one of my favorite authors published a new book. My husband told me not to buy it and hinted that his parents were planning to get it for me for Christmas. This was the type of thing they had done before, and I was happy to wait.

However, come Christmas Day, the book they gave me was something entirely different and not one I was eager to read. I was initially exasperated because I had given up several opportunities to buy my book at a discount, and the book they purchased was about hiking. I do not hike, camp or participate in any similar outdoor activities and had absolutely no interest in this book. Although my in-laws had given me inappropriate or head-scratching gifts before, this one took the cake.

Now, a month later, my husband and I are thinking there may be more to it. His mother had specifically told him she was buying me the book I wanted. His concern is that his mother, who is 77, may be suffering from dementia. Her own mother had it for years at that age.

We are not sure if the book thing was a simple mistake or an early sign of a more serious problem. We obviously cannot come out and ask her why she bought a hiking book instead of the one she knew I wanted. We would sound accusatory and ungrateful. Can you suggest a way we could approach her with our concerns without prying?

— Concerned Daughter-in-Law

Dear Concerned: There is no need to point out the book's unsuitability. Mom's family history, however, indicates a need to pay attention. Make a point to see and speak to her often. Does she forget familiar names? Have trouble recalling what keys are for? Where the milk goes? Does she follow the conversation? (There also could be hearing loss that prevents her from participating appropriately or medications that interfere with cognition.) We hope she has a good doctor, preferably a geriatrician, who will evaluate her at her next checkup. You might call the doctor in advance and alert him or her.

Dear Annie: I have a co-worker who's impossible to work with. I've always been nice to him and treated him with respect. But he rudely ignores me when I speak to him, and whenever he hears me talking (not too loudly), he always tells me to shut up. When I say hello, he seems reluctant to return the greeting.

I feel he doesn't like me and prefers that I don't work near him. I don't want a confrontation, nor do I want to get him into trouble. I just want this peacefully resolved. What should I do?

— Snubbed Co-Worker

Dear Snubbed: It's possible your co-worker has a social or auditory problem, and your best bet is simply to be polite and tolerant. However, if that is not the case, you need to speak to him privately. Explain that you are certain he doesn't intend to treat you so rudely, and ask how the two of you can help make the workplace environment more professional.

Dear Annie: I was disappointed in your comments to "Vietnam Vet," whose fiancee, "Nancy," has endured various sexual assaults. You wrote that "there are statutes of limitations on reporting such crimes." There is no statute of limitations to report a crime, only for prosecuting crimes.

Reporting crimes, even if they are beyond the statute of limitations, is important, especially for crimes involving sexual predators. Each of the individuals who assaulted Nancy may have assaulted others. Her reporting may help law enforcement in a current or past case involving another victim.

— T. B., Capitola, Calif.

Dear T.B.: Thank you for clarifying the point. Still, Nancy seems reluctant to report these crimes, and the decision to do so should be hers.

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