DEAR HARRIETTE: My grandma has been experiencing early symptoms of dementia and has been growing increasingly irritated with the family. My aunt persuaded her to see a doctor, and Grandma was on medication that made her -- and everyone around her -- happier. When her symptoms went away, she stopped taking her medication. My aunt has reached out to me to try to talk some sense into my aging grandmother. What can I say to her to approach this topic sensitively but firmly? Everyone’s patience is wearing thin. -- Getting Better, Milwaukee
DEAR GETTING BETTER: What needs to happen is your grandmother’s adult point person -- your aunt or someone else who has been taking her to the doctor and monitoring her health -- must schedule a doctor’s appointment where your grandmother is told by her doctor that she needs to take her medication. This same family representative should also find out if there are other ways to put the medicine into food so that your grandmother takes it without realizing it. Dementia can be a devastating disease. It surely is not your responsibility to manage her disease. You cannot shoulder that responsibility.
Spend more time with your grandmother, if possible. Learn her daily routine and about all of her medications. Ask her to tell you about what she takes and when. If she tells you she doesn’t need medication anymore, ask her if her doctor told her that. Encourage her to take it anyway, because you’ve been told that when she takes her medication she feels so good she doesn’t remember that she needs it, but she does. Make clear to the adults in your family that the doctor needs to intervene.
DEAR HARRIETTE: Ever since my mother remarried, I have a much larger family than usual. My stepfamily is very close, which leaves my sister and me on the sidelines occasionally. Honestly, I am OK with this because they are very obnoxious and exclusive, but I know my stepfather feels as though he is failing at bringing the family together. Do I have to be close to my new family? My sister and I are both adults on our own schedules. -- Wrong Crew, Dallas
DEAR WRONG CREW: For context, please know that even for small families and families that have not experienced the addition of stepparents and children, once the children are grown and living their own lives, it is common for gatherings with everyone present to occur only a few times a year.
That said, relax. Think about which new family members best complement you. Choose to build a relationship with those people so that you do stay connected. This should include your stepfather. Choose to talk to him when you call your mother. Cultivate a bond with him that feels comfortable for you. Be clear about what your sister would like so that you incorporate her wishes into your shared intention.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)