DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who has admitted that she has an eating disorder, which I suspected for years based on how she looks. A few years ago, she admitted herself to rehab a couple of times to try to change her behavior and get healthier. That’s when she confessed to me that she had this issue.
I saw her the other day after many months of talking only occasionally over the phone. She looks smaller than ever. She has gotten so frail. I am worried about her, but I’m not sure how I can be of help. Do I bring it up and ask her what’s going on? Do I tell her that I can see that she has lost weight? Do I say nothing? I think I would be mad if my friends started asking me about my weight fluctuations. -- Friend in Need, Miami
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: Since your friend opened the door to this conversation to you before, you have permission to bring it up -- carefully. When you talk to her next, ask her how she is feeling and how she is managing her disorder. Tell her that that last time you saw her you were concerned that she seemed to look smaller. Remind her that you love her and want only the best for her, and you are concerned about her health. The final thing you should say on this matter is to let her know that if she ever needs your help in any way, all she has to do is ask.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My mother is nearing 90 years old. She is in relatively good health, but we had to move her into a retirement community a while back because she was having trouble living alone. Now that she is in this facility, it seems that she’s become needier. The facility offers lots of activities to keep her busy, which she participates in occasionally. But whenever she talks to me or my siblings, she lays on the guilt trip. There’s always something we didn’t do right for her. She says she doesn’t hear from us enough -- even though we call her almost daily. We want her to be happy, and she’s not right now. Sadly, none of us can have her move into our homes, in large part because we aren’t there during the day. She would be completely alone if she came to us. How can we help her to be happy? -- Aging Mom in Need, Washington, D.C.
DEAR AGING MOM IN NEED: Do your best to look past your mother’s complaints. She is dealing with a lot. It sounds like she has her mental faculties, which is a blessing, but also it means that she realizes that she is not as able-bodied as she used to be. She is far more limited than is comfortable for her, and that has to be frustrating.
Rather than feed into her gripes, continue to call and visit her, and remind her of how much you love and appreciate her. Bring her little gifts when you visit. Talk to her about your day and what’s going on in the family. This will give her information she can talk about with her friends at the facility. Older people love to brag about their families. Point out positive things when she starts going toward the negative.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)