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Mother's Extreme Behavior Disrupts Family Gatherings

DEAR ABBY: My mother is 86 and drives everyone in the family crazy when we have to spend time with her. She says things that make people cringe. She's racist, homophobic, judgmental and critical of everybody and everything.

When we try to point out that what she says hurts people, she starts going into how much she is hurt -- daily -- by all of us, how "mean" we are to her, and how we are her family and need to be more loving. We all feel sorry for her and hate how lonely she is. We include her in all major holidays and family celebrations, but she is usually the cause of a major blowup or an overall downer for the gathering.

I wish I could help her see that she's her own worst enemy. I hate the idea of excluding Mom from family gatherings, but it is nearing that point. She has no friends. She goes to radical political meetings and constantly tries to push her health products on us.

Do you have any suggestions for how to respond to someone who is so difficult for the whole family? I do love Mom and care about her, but am at my wits' end. -- REACHED THE END OF MY ROPE

DEAR REACHED: Your mother isn't friendless. Her friends are the kindred spirits she sees at the radical political meetings. Because she disrupts family gatherings, you and your siblings need to work out a schedule so each of you sees Mom and takes her out individually. Ignore her comments as much as possible.

Will it be fun? Probably not. But more of her time will be filled, and you all will be able to enjoy the celebrations with her absent.

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