Originally Published: August 7, 2017 6:01 a.m.
Dear Annie: When my mom’s husband died, we moved her from another state to an assisted living facility a few miles from our house.
We run errands for her, handle her bills and occasionally take her out for a meal, and we have her over one day every week for a home-cooked meal. After several years, she has never offered to buy us a meal, not even for a special occasion, such as a birthday or anniversary. There has been no acknowledgment of our new normal. She does say “thank you” for each task.
My mom’s daughter, a half sibling of mine, lives in another state. She has never sent us a gift card for our efforts. Money is not a barrier for either of them; they are well-off. We feel that we would never treat a family caregiver this way. But are we expecting too much from Mom and my half sister? It’s really the thought, not the money, that counts. — Underappreciated
Dear Underappreciated: I’m sure Mom treated you to many meals the first 18 years of your life. Think of this role reversal as a chance to repay her. Perhaps she’s not offered to chip in for any meals because she’s on a limited income or living off savings.
Your half sister, though, really ought to step up more. Perhaps you could talk to her and express how much you would appreciate her help in caring for Mom. You shouldn’t feel guilty for asking this. She’s her mom, too, and she should want to help her.
Lastly, if you’re simply seeking some acknowledgment that what you are doing is good and kind, let me say: It is. And deep down, your mom probably appreciates it more than words can say.
Dear Annie: Thank you for encouraging the young woman who wrote about living with her alcoholic father to connect with Alateen (“Sick and Afraid,” July 15). It’s a powerful program — one that has helped many young people and their families.
Seeing as the young woman also said she is connected to her church, I’d encourage her to talk with her pastor, her youth leader or some other responsible and caring adult in the congregation. Alcoholism and other addictions and mental illnesses so often result in the isolation she is experiencing, and her faith community could be part of the web of support she needs.
A responsible faith leader — who can keep confidences — can be a good ally, both as a listening ear and as a resource person if the situation with her father escalates.
In addition, knowing what’s going on in a family can help the pastor, youth leader or other responsible adult pay better attention, even without taking any kind of direct action. Finally, it can remind the faith leader to lift up in prayer, without naming specific individuals or families, everyone whose life is touched by addiction or mental illness. Just as we pray for those dealing with physical illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, we need to pray for those living with mental health or addiction issues and those who love and care for them.
Again, thank you for your care for the young woman and all who write to you — and especially for the good advice you offer them. — Rev. Talitha Arnold
Dear Rev. Arnold: Thank you for your thoughtful letter. Because she mentioned her involvement with her church, I should have thought to recommend her faith leaders as an additional resource. That was a missed opportunity. I’ve passed your message along to “Sick and Afraid,” and I’m printing it here for any young person in a similar situation.
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