How to help parents in decline without starting a fight
Dear Annie: My octogenarian parents recently visited my family for two weeks. They stayed in our house for the duration of their stay. My three sons are all preteens and were very excited to spend time with their grandparents. My husband and I are always a bit more anxious to have them stay. My parents were present and financially supportive throughout my childhood but were emotionally disengaged.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that their speed has been slowing and their health has been declining. With this slowing, their presence has also become more disengaged. In fact, they generally spent the trip sitting in our family room watching the news. They would only occasionally leave the house, and even then, it was often just for a quick trip to the supermarket or to get lunch. They didn’t join me for school drop-off, pickup, activities or sports games.
I am concerned about the physical and mental stability of my parents. Both of them worked as I was growing up in California. My father was a sales executive, and my mother was a teacher. They don’t appear to have many friends where they live in Arizona and seem to be hyper-fixated on 24-hour news channels. I think they both miss the interactions from an office job.
They also are fixated on the past and retelling old stories instead of talking about new experiences. They seem to be more confrontational and looking for arguments with people. (Too much cable news?) And they focus on minor health issues and have grown concerned that this is the end.
I’d like to have an intervention with my parents and encourage them to find hobbies or adult groups, but I’m not sure how to do this without hurting them. — Searching for Senior Help
Dear Searching for Senior Help: Strangers are just friends waiting to happen. Maybe they are uncomfortable approaching strangers or feel vulnerable. Encourage them to join local senior groups or a group for new residents. Anybody attending an outing sponsored by one of these social groups is looking for the exact same feeling: companionship. Your parents will meet couples with whom they share interests and values and will be able to pull themselves out of their home and into activities. This will take their minds off the alarming vortex of cable news and give them more positive social interactions.
Dear Annie: Recently, you advised “Unexcused” to encourage the guy she’s seeing, who chronically belches, to see a doctor to find out whether he has a medical condition. I would suggest that he first start taking one or two high-quality food enzymes, which break down a broad range of foods, right before each meal. The enzymes will help him digest his food, and the problem may disappear. If that doesn’t work entirely, he might add one or two acidophilus capsules in the morning to help repopulate his stomach and upper intestine with good bacteria, which chlorinated water, alcohol and other things deplete. — Longtime Enzymes and Probiotics User
Dear Longtime Enzymes and Probiotics User: I looked into it after receiving your letter, and I see that probiotics are one of the most popular natural remedies for preventing acid reflux and for relieving its symptoms. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.
Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.