How Can I Tell My Elderly Mother That She Can’t Live With Me?


I am nearly 60 and newly divorced. My mother is 83 and has multiple health issues: She can barely walk and has profound deafness. She lives alone on a modest budget in a large house that needs repair. I live and work 200 miles away. I am moving into a small apartment until I get back on my feet after my divorce. A local friend runs errands for my mother, and I manage her finances. We don’t have any close relatives. Fortunately, she has begrudgingly agreed with her doctor, her friend and me that she can no longer live alone. She plans to sell her house, but she is burying me in guilt that I won’t let her live with me. I love her, but I can’t become her full-time caregiver now. I need to rebuild my life, but I feel terrible saying no. She would take me in without hesitation if our situations were reversed. Help!

SON

It makes perfect sense that you and your mother are anxious about the major changes in your lives. The unknown is scary! That makes it even more important to approach these issues methodically: First, your mother should be assessed by a gerontologist or someone with experience in elder care. Where either of you wants her to live is less important than where she can live safely. Don’t get ahead of yourselves, OK?

Once you both understand the level of support she needs to thrive, then you can discuss where she might live: an assisted-living facility, an apartment with visiting aides or with you (also with aides — though I understand you do not currently want that).

Still, you have not said that your mother has cognitive issues, so try to defer to her wishes where possible. That doesn’t mean she should live with you against your will. But it does mean that, during this decision-making phase, you both try to keep open minds. As a veteran of this difficult process, I can also tell you that guilt is not productive here: An arrangement that doesn’t work for you — selfishly or not — is probably not a healthy solution for your mother.

When my daughter was 10, she formed a friendship with a 30-year-old man with Down syndrome at a family campground. They have kept in touch on my phone, and he even visited us with his family. Now my daughter is in high school, and we suspect that he has developed romantic feelings for her that are inappropriate, given their age difference. We’ve been ignoring his texts and feeling guilty. What should we do?

PARENTS

Your job as parents is to prepare your daughter for the world. So, the most important lesson here is that, whenever someone says or does something that makes her uncomfortable, she feels empowered to say “Stop!” — even if that other person is an otherwise sympathetic figure.

Now, it’s not clear whether you have shared the suspect texts with your daughter. You should, and you should also discuss them with her. Then, you may tell the man and his family that you want the texts to change (or stop).

I am considering reaching out to a person who wronged me and from whom I cut off contact to protect my mental health. A few years have passed, and I would like to put this episode behind me — without rehashing it. However, it is possible that the other person believes I behaved badly or overdramatically. (I don’t agree.) So, how do I offer unconditional forgiveness if the other person wants an apology?

FORMER FRIEND

I understand the emotional toll of maintaining estrangements. (They can be draining!) Still, I don’t understand what’s changed here: Why is this relationship no longer a threat to your mental health?

What’s more, your plan doesn’t sound like “unconditional forgiveness” to me: It seems more like sweeping an upsetting episode under the rug and hoping never to discuss it again. That doesn’t seem healthy — or likely. I wish I could make this easy for you, but I would speak to a therapist before reaching out to your estranged friend.

I have a good friend who has obsessive-compulsive disorder, which manifests in an extreme need for symmetry: If I tap his left shoulder, he needs to tap his right shoulder to even things out. He will eat the last French fry only if there are two of them. The problem: I typically keep a few healthy (and expensive) energy bars in my fridge to use as meal replacements. My friend loves them, and when he visits, he often asks for two of them. I’m happy to give him one, but two is a bridge too far. (I live 25 minutes from the grocery store!) My friend thinks I’m being unsympathetic. You?

FRIEND

People often ask for more than we want to give them. So, our challenge is learning to feel comfortable saying no or finding reasonable compromises. Personally, I would order a case of energy bars from an online retailer and ask your friend to contribute whatever amount seems fair. (Money may not be an issue here, but you did say the bars were expensive.) I think a “good friend” is worth this effort, but it’s your call.


For help with your awkward situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on X.





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