DEAR AMY: My wife and I retired last year. We moved my wife’s mother, age 95 and with dementia, from another state into an assisted-living place near our home.
Since then our life has changed dramatically. I want to be helpful and supportive of my mother-in-law’s care, but it has completely taken over our lives.
My wife is there anywhere from one to three times a day, and I visit about every other day and have her over to visit us often.
We recently went on our first vacation in a long time, and when we returned my mother-in-law informed us that we were never to do that again. I’m afraid that my wife thinks the same. The assisted-living place does a fine job, but my wife says they don’t do everything she would do.
My wife’s temper seems to be directed at me most of the time, and I don’t feel that is fair to me or our marriage.
I know she is under a lot of stress caring for her mother on a daily basis, but should our marriage be put on hold until this family member is gone? This does not seem healthy to all involved. Is there a book I can read to help me understand our situation a bit better? -- Very Sad Husband
DEAR HUSBAND: You have perfectly described the toll that caring for an elderly parent takes on the entire family.
If your wife doesn’t figure out how to pace herself, your relationship and her physical and emotional health will suffer.
I agree with you that you both must pay attention to your marriage, not only for your own sake but also because the strength of this relationship will help to bolster her at this difficult time.
You need to be extra patient and loving. Understand her anger, but ask her to express it appropriately. Take care of your wife, and encourage her to take good care of herself. If she managed to visit her mother one less time each day, she could take a yoga class, go swimming or just spend some time winding down.
A caregivers’ support group would be extremely valuable to both of you, as would a weekly date night, where you visit with her mother together and then go out afterward.
Read “The Emotional Survival Guide for Caregivers: Looking After Yourself and Your Family While Helping an Aging Parent,” by Barry J. Jacobs (Guilford, 2006).
DEAR AMY: I’ve been married for 10 years. The relationship has been shaky from the start, for a variety of reasons.
Currently, my husband and I live thousands of miles apart because of our job situations. Our lack of communication has extended to us being apart; neither of us tries to make daily or even weekly contact. We call or text only if we need to.
Should I consider giving up a good job to move across the country when the relationship is already broken? -- Semi-wife
DEAR SEMI: If you wanted to have a better (or any) relationship with your husband, you could start by simply being in touch more often. You would send an e-mail instead of a text. Call him and schedule a visit.
Otherwise, what you have isn’t much of a marriage; it sounds more like the relationship I have with my accountant.
However, it sounds as if you and your husband aren’t interested in having a relationship. If this is true, then you should visit him in person and start the process of dismantling.
DEAR AMY: “Gifted” wrote about the challenges of receiving appropriate gifts when you’re elderly. I have found a solution to this problem.
For Christmas every year, my family takes my aunt, great-aunt and grandmother to a holiday play at our local theater. This has become a great tradition. My children have an activity in common with their elderly relatives and enjoy it as much as we do. My relatives have an evening out that they look forward to for months.
This is a gift of time and inclusion, and a great source of joy to us as well. -- Susan
DEAR SUSAN: I have visions of sugar plums dancing (in my head).
This is delightful.
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