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by Abigail Van Buren

Sisters Pass The Buck On Aging Aunt's Care

DEAR ABBY: My older sister and I are very close to our "Aunt Lil." She has always jokingly told us we are "her children, too" because she never had any of her own and was active in our lives growing up.

Aunt Lil is in her late 60s and in declining health. Now single, she smokes two packs of cigarettes a day, but counts it only as one because they are slims. She also has high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

The other day, while visiting with my mom, Aunt Lil started complaining about getting older and said how thankful she is to have my sister and me to take care of her when she's too old to take care of herself. The two of us gave each other the "Not me ... you!" look.

While we love her dearly, when the time comes, Aunt Lil will be off to a nursing home or have private home health care. Should we approach this with her now or wait and blindside her if/when it becomes an issue? -- CAREFUL PLANNING IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CAREFUL PLANNING: Having been so close to you and your sister since you were children, I can understand why Aunt Lil might have expected some kindness in return. However, because the two of you aren't up to the task, she should be told now. It may provide an incentive for her to take better care of her health. Even if it doesn't, it may spur her to think about her assets and planning for her care or supervision should she need it in the future. Because you don't want the bother, suggest she involve another trusted family member or a social worker to watch out for her if she's no longer competent to manage her affairs.

Read more in: Family & Parenting | Health & Safety