ASK AMY: Grown child worries about elders caring for them

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Dear Amy: I am an adult millennial. My parents are getting old. Unfortunately, I don’t have much in common with them.

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I live nearby and they want me to visit them weekly.

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They are disorganized and I like to be organized.

They don’t plan for the future and live hand to mouth.

They are always in debt, while I am frugal. The list is lengthened increasingly.

We also have different hobbies and religions.

It’s hard. They are over 70 years old and I dread the years of care.

I can’t be the only person in this situation.

How should adult children behave with parents with whom they have little in common?

– Anonymous

Dear Anonymous: If you are a parent, I hope my insight will help you reframe your reaction; if not, my thoughts might help shed some light on your view of this issue.

The reason I raise this question is that the experience of raising children can provide a useful perspective to the experience of providing elder care.

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Those years of helpless infants and babies, the era of trying toddlers, holding hands at crosswalks, anxious nights, trips to the ER, football matches, birthdays, vacations… these are all times when most parents give their all – even if their « everything » is limited.

And if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to interact full-time with someone you have nothing in common with, I suggest spending four or five years raising a teenager.

Considering the level at which your parents function, they may have done a less than stellar job meeting the standards that most parents work so hard to achieve, but – not to stress too much – you’re alive. High functioning. They obviously care about you (and I assume you care about them).

Here’s how adults in functional families should treat their aging parents: with compassion and patience.

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This is how adults deal with their aging parents: with some frustration. Prepare for anxious nights, trips to the ER, hands at crosswalks, and more.

It is vital that you take good care of yourself. This includes setting boundaries, understanding that you won’t be able to control or change them, and practicing the all-important level of compassionate detachment where you can enjoy some of your time with them, despite your differences in temperament and lifestyle.


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Dear Amy: I was in a 13 year relationship with a man 17 years my senior.

I helped raise his daughter, who gave me a beautiful grandson.

My ex and I were never in love. We never did anything together and he was very emotionally abusive towards me.

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I left him for another man my age. I am madly in love with my partner.

My new love and my ex hate each other.

My new love says if I have contact with my ex, he will leave me.

The problem is that I constantly feel guilty for leaving the other relationship.

I worry about my ex’s feelings, so I talk to him behind my partner’s back.

I’m tired of feeling guilty.

I’m tired of feeling obligated to my ex, and I know it will destroy my current relationship.

Can you help me find ways to let go?


Dear K: If you’re tired of this dynamic enough to ask me about it, then you should be ready to let go.

Your guilt for leaving an abusive relationship is misplaced, but you’re not really gone. Guilt is part of the cycle of violence. As long as you let your guilt guide you, you keep riding.

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You should ask yourself how this contact with an abusive ex is serving you. Are you actually afraid to commit to your new love?

You have embarked on a sort of “soft exit” from your previous relationship. It didn’t work, so you should now break up.

The modern version of breaking up means disengaging on all platforms. This will pave the way for a healthier and more honest relationship with the man you love.

Dear Amy: I was so disappointed with your response to « Anxious », who wanted to greet her new neighbors with a note that she suffered from « severe social anxiety… ». Please further stigmatize mental illness by suggesting she change her rating to say she has “some health issues.”

– Upset

Dear Upset: I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest to be specific about their health to strangers. There’s always time for that, later.

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