Life Advice



Annie's Mailbox: Deeply Concerned

Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar on

Dear Annie: My wife's aunt "Zelda" is 83 and lives alone. She is in the early stages of dementia, and her short-term memory is rapidly deteriorating. She will ask the same question multiple times within a 15-minute span. She also is extremely paranoid. She is convinced people are entering her house at night and stealing small items, such as watches. She also owns a gun. I refuse to go into her home at night for fear she'll shoot me.

We had an alarm system installed in her house, but it was too confusing for Zelda to use, and we had to remove it a few weeks later. She told the local police that people are entering her yard, so they installed cameras that gave them some fine photos of dogs, cats and raccoons.

Having Zelda live with us is not an option, and she is dead set against moving to an assisted living facility. What are our options? -- Deeply Concerned

Dear Concerned: If you prefer to keep Zelda in her home, you will need to hire a patient, trustworthy caregiver. You also can accompany Zelda to an assisted living facility where she could speak to someone who would explain the positive aspects of having nearby medical care and social activities. Most importantly, she should not have a weapon in her home if she cannot use it responsibly. Please contact the Eldercare Locator at (1-800-677-1116) to find out what resources are available in your area.

Dear Annie: Seventeen years ago, I married into a wonderful family. Due to our jobs, we have never lived near any of my husband's family. But we try to get together every year and stay in contact via family emails.

Something has perplexed me for the past few years. One of my husband's sisters remembers my son's birthday with a card and check, but neglects to send anything to my two daughters. No one else on either side of the family does this, nor would they consider it acceptable. Cards are either sent to all the children or to none. This apparent display of favoritism greatly bothers me.

The girls are young and haven't noticed yet. But I expect they will be hurt when they realize what is happening. Is there a tactful way I could address my sister-in-law's strange behavior without destroying our relationship? -- At a Loss


Dear At a Loss: Please don't assume some nefarious motive. It's quite possible that your sister-in-law only remembers your son's birthday and has no idea when the other children celebrate theirs. You could offer to make family calendars with everyone's special dates on them. Or, when you schedule a birthday party, send invitations to the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, post pictures on Facebook or let the family join in the festivities via Skype or FaceTime. And of course, you could ask your husband to speak to his sister and ask why she forgets his daughters' birthdays every year.

Dear Annie: "Need Another Opinion" touched on a silent crisis: aging parents caring for middle-aged developmentally disabled children. Often, care is not sought until the elderly parent becomes infirm or dies, leading to preventable emergencies and far more stressful situations.

"Need" and his wife can arrange for individualized, appropriate care for her siblings who need living situations that provide for their independence and health. Eligibility for services can be determined by contacting the state's department of human services. Her siblings will likely qualify for Medicaid programs, which may include housing, health care and other support. Please suggest they contact VOR ( at 877-399-4VOR for information. -- Julie Huso, Executive Director, VOR

Dear Julie Huso: Thank you for the resource. (Membership in VOR, an advocacy group for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, is $40 per year.)


"Annie's Mailbox" is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar. This column was originally published in 2017. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at




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