DEAR ABBY: I am at my wit's end. I don't know if I can go on.
My mother's 64-year-old sister, Aunt "Stella," is suffering from pulmonary disease and can no longer care for herself. I already take care of my bedridden mother in Mom's home that she shares with my children and me, while I hold down a 40-hour-a-week job and single-handedly raise my two teen-agers.
Last evening, Mother asked me to take in Aunt Stella and care for her, because she is estranged from the rest of the family and has little money.
Abby, I am ashamed to admit it, but I hate the woman! Aunt Stella is the most self-centered, uncaring person I have ever known. In spite of her illness, she is never without a cigarette -- even when others are in the car with her.
All my life -- even as an infant and small child -- she was forever stinking up the air with her smoke. She didn't (and still doesn't) care about the safety and comfort of others, as long as she gets to smoke her cigs.
Everyone, including my mother, was afraid to say anything to her about her smoking, because she would become angry and verbally abusive. (No one was going to tell HER what to do!) The few times I spoke up (or lowered the car window so I could breathe) Aunt Stella either scolded or slapped me.
She was at our place for any and all family events. I could not escape her. She was never helpful to my mother or me; just a nuisance.
I love my mother dearly, as I do my children, and do not want them to experience what I suffered all my life. Although terminal, my aunt still smokes as much as she ever has.
Mom's days are short. She is often incoherent, but she does have days when she is really "with it," and I do not want her going to her grave knowing I did not fulfill her deathbed wishes. However, my fear is that Aunt Stella would live on long after Mom passes, and my life -- and my children's -- would be pure hell.
I thought I could place her in a home at some point, but I would have to sell this place to cover the costs of keeping Stella in a facility.
Do you have any ideas, Abby? I'll be watching your column and hoping. Thank you for listening. -- EXHAUSTED AND ANGRY
DEAR EXHAUSTED AND ANGRY: Gently tell your mother that the reality is that you are unable to care for her sister. Your wishes are as important as your mother's, and should be respected.
The state or local agency on aging may be able to suggest other alternatives available to your aunt in her time of need. Call and tell them about your aunt, but make it clear that YOU cannot be responsible for her.