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Annie’s mailbox: Caring for mom takes over life

SHARE Annie’s mailbox: Caring for mom takes over life

Dear Annie: My wife's mother is institutionalized with advanced Alzheimer's. The facility where she lives is very expensive and provides 24-hour skilled nursing care, therapy and a full slate of activities for residents. My father-in-law, who is financially secure, lives close by and spends a lot of his time with his wife.

My problem is, over the past year or so, my wife seems to have decided that it's HER job to take care of her mother, even though her mom has absolutely no clue who my wife is. We buy Mom's clothes, music and books, and do her laundry. Worse, my wife thinks she needs to be at the facility every evening to feed her mom dinner, and on weekends she feeds her lunch and stays to feed her dinner as well. It's a good half-hour to the home, so we drive a lot.

I spent my wife's birthday at the nursing home. I spent Halloween at the nursing home. I spent Thanksgiving there. I spent Christmas there. We attend every function and volunteer for every event they have, and my wife takes time off work if these events happen during the day. I'm self-employed and end up losing work time because I'm also expected to go. I recently suggested we take a trip for a weekend, and her response was, "Who'll take care of Mom?" When I suggested a nurse's aide, or one of her siblings who never shows up, a huge fight ensued.

I'm still young, healthy and fit, but I feel like I live in the nursing home. I love my wife and don't want to put her in the position of choosing between her mother and me, but I'm about ready to go over the wall. —Unwilling Inmate

Dear Unwilling: Your wife believes she needs to be there for every second of Mom's life, to reassure herself that she has done everything possible. Her devotion is impressive, but it shouldn't be at the expense of her marriage. Going daily to feed Mom dinner is fine, but if your wife wishes to attend multiple events, tell her she will have to go without you. Call her siblings and ask them to offer to visit Mom on a weekend so your wife can take a break. Also contact the nursing home social worker to help you and your wife prioritize these obligations.

Dear Annie: A month ago, my beloved cat died. During her entire life, she had always seen the same vet — a friendly, kind man who took wonderful care of her. This vet was also the person to put her down when the time came.

Since he had been treating her for 12 years, I thought it was OK to send him a little note thanking him for his excellent care of my beloved cat. Some of my friends have now told me this was grossly inappropriate. Was it wrong to send a note? —Grateful Cat Owner

Dear Grateful: Not at all. It was very gracious of you to write the vet in your moment of grief, and we're sure he appreciated it enormously. Your friends are mistaken. It is never wrong to send a note of thanks to someone who deserves it.

Dear Annie: I know it's late, but I'd like to comment on the letter from "Desperate Grandchild in Arizona," whose grandfather insists on smoking while using an oxygen tank.

There is a case pending in my area involving an elderly man on oxygen who was smoking and started a fire that put several families out of their homes and killed a child. The man is being tried for manslaughter. "Desperate" and her family need to get tough. —Midwest Monitor

Dear Midwest: Thank you for graphically pointing out the hazards. You will be relieved to know that "Desperate" wrote back to tell us that a family powwow convinced Grandpa to stop putting the family at risk. We were glad to hear it.

Dear Annie: I know a lot of women share two last names, usually a maiden name hyphenated with a married name. My situation is different.

I was married for many years to "John Smith" and was recently divorced. My children are now grown, and I'm planning on getting married again soon to "Bob Jones." My ex-husband and my future husband and I are all close friends, and we get along great. Once I marry Mr. Jones and take his name, would it be proper to use both last names, even though neither is my maiden name? My ex- husband has not remarried, so there wouldn't be another woman using his name. —To Add or Subtract

Dear Add: Yes, you can be Mrs. Smith-Jones. Hyphenated names are a relatively recent trend, and people have been making up the rules as they go along.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to anniesmailbox@comcast.net, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. © Creators Syndicate Inc.