Ask Amy: Kids do an end run around dad's wife

October 25, 2013 

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 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. 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 caregiving.

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 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. They all have a stake in your future. Set them straight — gently.

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.

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.


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