DEAR ABBY: My younger sister lives at home with our parents. She suffers from a learning disability as well as some serious mental health issues that are under control. She is a bright, sweet person who -- with some help -- could become semi-independent. However, my parents have made no serious attempts to encourage this.
She graduated from high school 10 years ago and has sought no further education or employment opportunities. She spends most of her time in her room playing video games. I have tried to offer suggestions like volunteering or joining an organization. While this is met with polite positivity, it has inspired no action.
Our parents are getting older, and if my sister isn't able to live independently, the burden of supporting her will fall on me. I am not permitted to express how frustrating this situation is or how sad it makes me. I am shut out of the conversation, even though my future and the future of my own family is involved. I live far away, but keep in touch regularly. What can I say or do to encourage change? -- THE BAD SISTER
DEAR "BAD" SISTER: Your parents are doing your sister no favors by keeping her isolated and dependent. This is a conversation that needs to take place with them in person, rather than from a distance.
You and your husband should meet with them face to face. It's important that you understand what financial provisions they have made for your sister in the event of their deaths, and you should know exactly what your responsibilities will entail.
Years ago, one of my assistants was in a situation just like yours. His younger brother was mentally disabled and lived with their parents until their deaths. At that point, responsibility for the younger brother was left to the older brother.
The parents had assumed that the same kind of living arrangement would continue. However, the gentleman who worked with me understood that it would not be healthy for either of them, so he arranged for his brother to move to a group home. There he was able to participate in activities and, for the first time in his life, to make friends. If your sister doesn't have the skills to live independently, this may be the solution for her, too.