Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Neighbor Won't Leave Reader Alone

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a neighbor who doesn’t understand boundaries. She is lonely and constantly wants to engage with me and my family, as well as other neighbors. It has gotten to be too much. She will stop by unannounced and uninvited and bang on the door or ring the bell. The time of day is of no matter to her. And if I answer and tell her it’s not a good time or that I have company, she barges in anyway and inserts herself into the experience. I haven’t figured out a way to get her to understand that mine is not an open door for her. I don’t want to be rude, but she has gone way overboard in wearing out her welcome. SOS! -- Overboard, Brooklyn, New York

DEAR OVERBOARD: I know this may seem harsh, but what you are going to have to do is stop responding to her. If she rings your bell and you don’t want her to come over, do not answer the door. If she calls repeatedly when you are unavailable, do not respond. If you see her out and about and she approaches you about why you are avoiding her, explain that you are not always available. If she says that she could hear people in your house when she came knocking on your door, tell her that you may have had company and didn’t hear the door. Ultimately, if she keeps pushing, you will have to tell her that it bothers you that she attempts to come to your home whenever she pleases without asking first. Tell her that you do not appreciate her overstepping your personal boundaries. Ask her to stop.

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is getting older, and she is beginning to show signs of aging. She is frail and doesn’t get around as easily as she once did. My siblings live all over the country, and I’m the only one who sees her on a regular basis. I have told my brothers and sisters that I think they should visit more often because Mom is not doing well, but I don’t think they believe me. Her voice sounds strong on the phone, and most of them speak to her relatively frequently, so they think I’m exaggerating.

As the child who watches out for her, I can tell you that we have had a few scares -- everything from a bad cold (which can be tough for an 85-year-old) to a sinus infection, the flu and fainting. My mother’s doctor calls her condition “the normal signs of aging,” but the way I see it, whatever is going on, her children need to see her more frequently. How can I impress this upon them? -- Older Mom, Boston

DEAR OLDER MOM: Use technology to support your cause to let them see how your mother is doing and also help to connect them more immediately. Engage FaceTime, Skype or another service to set up video calling with your mother so that they can see for themselves what her state is.

Additionally, call them separately and ask them to come visit. Consider hosting a family get-together this summer where you invite all family members to attend and pitch in with food and beverages. You will have fun and celebrate your mother.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)