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Rift with neighbors stems from behavior change

Dear Annie: I am a single senior woman. I am very close to a neighbor family. I love them, and they tell me they love me as if I were their family. The older stepfather lives with them. He and I are close in age. We have been great friends. Neither one of us is interested in a romantic relationship with each other or anyone else.

But over the past year he has become mean, judgmental and jealous of my relationship with his family. He gets angry for no reason and says offensive things to all of us. We have tried talking to him about the problem. We suggested talking to his doctor and have offered our help on finding out what is causing this change in behavior.

No one wants to be around him, so he now has no friends. Recently, he accused me of wanting to break up the marriage of the family he lives with — his stepchildren. I am old enough to be the couple’s mother and love them as my children. He said really nasty, horrible things to me about this.

My husband died many years before I met this family, but he told me I treated my husband badly. He didn’t even live in the same state when my husband was alive. Later, he sent me a text saying he knew what he accused me of was not true. The text also denied he said anything wrong and implied that I was making things up.

He has never apologized, and he tries to act like nothing ever happened. He has threatened to kill other neighbors for walking on the street. He has threatened his 9-year-old granddaughter. He says he hates everyone. I no longer will be around him.

The problem is that the family is upset that I will no longer go to their home. They understand why but are sad that I am not in their lives as often. They love to have parties, but I won’t attend any more. I miss our times together terribly. We now spend time out or at my home.

The stepdad refuses to get help and blames everyone else for the problem. The family is walking on eggshells around him. Making him move out is not an option. We just don’t know what to do any more. His family is so hurt by his behavior and the stress it causes. It breaks my heart. — Sad Neighbor

Dear Sad Neighbor: This sudden change in personality sounds like dementia, the beginning of dementia or any number of other possible medical problems. I would suggest asking the family to talk to their doctor about this change in personality, and ask if the doctor would be willing to make a house call to meet with the stepfather. At the same time, if you start to understand why he is acting the way he is, you will start to be able to be around him more and regain your friendship with your neighbor’s family. Don’t let one bad apple ruin the bunch.

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“Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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