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by Abigail Van Buren

Siblings' Scheme Keeps Sister Away From Mother's Funeral

DEAR ABBY: At 78, my dad has given up on life. After a bout with cancer in his 50s, he has gone downhill with severe depression, sleep apnea, heart issues, etc. Dad sleeps about 20 hours a day, and refuses to do anything to improve his quality of life.

My mom is a vibrant woman of 70 who enjoys excellent health. She has many years ahead of her, but her quality of life has diminished because of my father. We encourage her to find some kind of life outside the home through friends, women's groups, church groups, etc., but she's reluctant to leave Dad. She's a youthful person who is, basically, living with a corpse.

I love my father, but his refusal to do anything to make his life better (treat his sleep apnea, get some exercise, take his meds properly) makes me realize he won't change. I hate that two lives are being destroyed because of Dad's choices. How can I make Mom see her life could be better? -- TROUBLED SON IN ILLINOIS

DEAR TROUBLED SON: You and your mom should schedule an appointment with your father's physician to discuss everything you have disclosed to me. His doctor needs to know he sleeps 20 hours a day and isn't compliant in taking his meds. And you need to find out whether your father's condition is improvable at this point, because you may be judging him too harshly.

While your mother's life might improve if she got out more, it's possible that if she took the time away from your dad she would feel too guilty to get the most out of it. If there are family members or friends who would stay with him while she went out, she might be more receptive. Remember, you can always suggest, but don't push.