DEAR AMY: My husband and I have been married for 14 years. He is 80. He developed some form of dementia about four years after we married, and I am his caregiver. He is very high-functioning, enjoys life, reads and has hobbies, though he has started to show some physical weakness and loss of stamina.
We moved to the city where his children live, at their urging, so they could ostensibly “help” with caring for him if he worsened. They seldom help and are always occupied with other things. His daughter manages my husband’s assets, which are quite substantial.
Recently, I learned they have been looking at other living arrangements for us, without discussing this with us. They have told relatives that they worry about our stress level. They hint about moving us to assisted living.
We own our home and have very little maintenance associated with it. We are happy, and both of us are financially independent. I am healthy and younger than my husband, and while I have made it clear that I need breaks to spend time with my children and grandchildren in another state, I don’t complain about care giving.
We have insurance that would pay for in-home care, if needed. My husband can afford respite care, and we have outside help. I have been very angry about his children intruding and don’t know how to handle this. -- Hates Manipulation
DEAR HATES: Your frustration is warranted. You are a stepmother in a care-giving situation; you are a hero to this family, and all of your offspring — yours as well as his — should do everything they can to be supportive.
These adults have a version of being supportive that seems to have left you and their father out of the process. You will have to correct them about this. They all have a stake in your future. Set them straight, gently.
You should not discount the idea of assisted living just because you don’t want to make this move now. Research this on your own. Consider every angle (financial, emotional, etc.). This option might be something you will choose down the line.
Call a meeting. Let the “kids” express their concerns and ideas. Ask them to communicate directly with you. And then acknowledge their concern, thank them for their ideas, tell them your own plans (if you want to) and let them know exactly how they can be most helpful to you right now.
DEAR AMY: You wrote this sentence in response to “Heartbroken”: “Interventions should be guided by an addiction specialist — otherwise even the most dedicated attempt may backfire and have serious (unintended) consequences.”
Many years ago, a longtime friend was part of a staged intervention for someone whose alcoholism was out of control. Since then she has conducted her own “interventions” on people whose behavior did not please her.
I was one of those people; she called a meeting to confront “your obesity” after I had gained weight. Her daughter-in-law was another one; she called a meeting to confront “your addiction” when she felt her daughter-in-law spent too much time and money shopping.
I was so startled I avoided her for several years. Neither of us changed the behavior that bothered her. Moral of the story: Leave interventions to those who are trained and know what they are doing/what’s appropriate. -- Been There
DEAR BEEN THERE: Exactly. Otherwise, an intervention is just a power play.
DEAR AMY: Your advice to “Heartbroken” was right on, and spooky in its timing. I saw the column the day after I learned that a high school friend had died, apparently as a result of alcohol addiction. I am very sad and shocked, and feeling a little guilty because I hadn’t seen her in a couple of months and hadn’t realized she had resumed drinking.
I would add that Heartbroken might want to look into Al-Anon Family Groups for advice on how to help her friend and how to handle stepping back. The only thing she probably can tell her friend is, “I love you, I’m worried about you and I wish I could help before something awful happens to you, but only you can fix this.” -- Ruth in Rochester, N.Y.
DEAR RUTH: Thank you.