Ask Amy: Aging parents acting stubborn; business correspondence

May 12, 2011

Dear Amy:

My parents are in their mid-80s and both have had major health issues over the past year. They absolutely refuse to consider moving to an apartment/condo or small bungalow, even though their large two-story home (and yard with flower and vegetable gardens, and a lot of grass to cut) is too much for them.

They are relying heavily on their children and grandchildren to help out. We don’t mind helping out when we can, but they seem to forget that we have families, jobs and homes of our own to deal with. They call frequently for help at home or for repairs.

There have been times when none of us is available, and when we suggest to them that they call a professional, they tell us that would be too expensive. Trust me, they can afford it.

The vegetable garden is far bigger than what they need, but they insist on planting the whole area, which requires a good deal of help. The staircase is steep, and they are both unsteady. This is a worry for all of us, but my parents refuse any paid help.

We feel as if we are parents looking after very stubborn children! Any suggestions on how to get them to listen to us?

Totally Frustrated

Roll up your sleeves, because at this stage in life there will be times when you have to put your folks at the top of your list. Accept it.

You and your siblings should figure out how to spread the duties among you.

You also must start to draw boundaries so you can pace yourselves and concentrate on the most essential tasks. If you can’t do their gardening (or don’t want to), you’ll have to say so (though this sounds like a great job for a grandchild).

This is not one conversation but a series of talks and decisions you’ll all have to make as their situation changes. Talk with your folks about their safety issues. Perhaps they can move to the ground floor of their home. You should install grab bars and railings where needed. If they need household help and say they can’t afford it, offer to go over their finances with them.

Once you start to face some of these issues forthrightly, calmly and compassionately, your folks will feel more comfortable making some of these big decisions.

Dear Amy:

I own a business, and in e-mailing short notes back and forth with my clients about projects we have underway for them, my clients will sometimes misspell words. These aren’t typos, but rather words they didn’t know how to spell.

Because the e-mails are usually short, when I reply I feel awkward spelling the word correctly (I worry they will think I’m “correcting” them). To date I’ve been able to avoid the whole thing by using a different word in my reply.

I wondered how you would handle such a situation. Or am I fretting over nothing?

Business Speller

You can’t repeat an error to validate someone else. In your business correspondence, you should always use correct spellings. If, for instance, a client wants to communicate about her “soffit” but spells it “sophet,” you reply by saying, “The soffit was installed yesterday and looks great.” To do otherwise would be exceedingly silly.

Dear Amy:

Thank you for printing the letter from “Touche,” who brought his own bottle of wine when invited to dinner but would not share it if the hostess served “swill.”

My husband and I laughed all evening, and we heartily agree that Touche would be much better off just eating in his car instead of inflicting his bad manners on other people.

Cracked Up

Occasionally someone serves up the perfect comeback. Thank you, Touche.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2011 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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