DEAR ANNIE: My mom has now reached an age where it is difficult for her to continue living alone. My brothers and I are all close, although I am the only one living in the area. I spend more time with Mom in a few weeks than they do in an entire year.
We recently decided it's time for Mom to transition to assisted living and planned a family conference call. The call was originally just going to be us siblings, but I thought it might be nice for Mom to join us at the beginning, so they could speak to her and see how she's doing.
When Mom hung up, one of my brothers blew up at me for letting her know we were having such a call. He repeatedly shouted at me that this was to be a secret. I cannot fathom why Mom shouldn't know. She trusts us with her care, and it never occurred to me to keep her out of the process. If Mom were mentally incapacitated, I could understand, but she is not. Am I wrong? - Worried Sibling
Dear Sibling: No. It's always best if the parent can be part of the decision-making, and we don't understand why your brothers want things kept secret. It's possible they feel the conversation would depress her or that she might resent suggestions of incompetence. In order to avoid a rift, consider having an impartial third party explain the necessity of Mom's participation. Her doctor or clergyperson can talk to your brothers, and you also can get help through the Family Caregiver Alliance (caregiver.org), at 1-800-445-8106.
DEAR ANNIE: I'm 60 years old, and my boyfriend, "Mervin," is 68. We have such wonderful chemistry and can talk on the phone for hours and never run out of interesting topics. Sex is perfect.
The problem is, Mervin was raised without affection and has trouble being demonstrative. I have multiple sclerosis and need his support, not only emotionally but physically - especially when walking. I sometimes trip, and he refuses to hold my hand. Even if I didn't have MS, I would expect to walk along hand in hand with my boyfriend. He says it is "sissy."
I feel neglected and could never go through life this way. Can he change? - With Him but Alone
Dear With Him: Someone who would rather let you trip on the sidewalk than hold your hand is putting his needs above yours. If Mervin truly cares for you, he will make an effort to work on his inability to show affection. Otherwise, you must decide if he's worth it as is, because unfortunately, things are not going to get any easier.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.