Ask Amy: Dad's hospitalized; mom's checked out

May 18, 2013 

Dear Amy: My father has cancer, along with other health issues. Though his prognosis is fine, my mother seems to be showing a complete lack of concern or involvement with his health care.

He has gone to oncologist and radiologist visits by himself. He was recently hospitalized after a doctor's visit and she did not even go to visit him in the hospital.

My biggest concern is that by her not realistically dealing with this issue now it could lead to an emotional breakdown later (this has happened to her before with another family issue).

Do you have any suggestions for her adult children to help her face reality or is it OK to let her deal with things by avoidance?

WORRIED FAMILY

Dear Family: As a family, your immediate attention should be toward your father's care. The most available and medically competent family member should accompany him on medical visits (if that is what he wants).

It sounds as if your mother's avoidance is extreme. Because she has a history of emotional struggles in times of stress, you should ask your father's treatment team if they can recommend a therapist, social worker or support group for your mother. She may have an extreme amount of anxiety about this issue (or medical treatment in general).

Obviously, your mother should not deal with this by avoidance or denial, but her impairment and your father's illness are your family's reality, and you should not assume she will be useful to him.

Dear Amy: The other day, a close friend and I were talking about adoption. I am adopted and my friend told me that she has an aunt who is adopted but doesn't know it.

She is about 50 years old and has grown up thinking her adoptive parents are her biological parents; she has no idea she is not biologically related, but everyone in her family knows that she is adopted. Do you think they should tell her?

MR. B

Dear Mr. B: I think an entire family knowing the truth about something as intimate and important as a person's biological heritage while keeping it a secret from the person is wrong. And now you know about this person's adoption while she is still in the dark.

As an adopted person, surely you think this woman should know the truth about her own life. You should share your unique insight with your friend and urge her to encourage her family to be truthful.

Dear Amy: A single mom signing her letter "I'm Her Mom" outlined a challenge having to do with her mother's extreme opinions regarding eating, weight and body image.

Wow, this resonated with me because I dealt with a very similar dynamic in my own family. You were right to say that eating disorders can be passed from one generation to the next. When I saw this happening in my family, I firmly controlled my mother's access to my children, certainly when it came to food.

I'm happy to say that though my mother never successfully managed her own eating disorder, my children grew up with healthy eating habits and body image.

ALSO A MOM

Dear Mom: You successfully interrupted this vicious cycle. Good for you!

Dear Amy: The letter in your column from "Big Sis" really took me back.

Like Sis, I was a much older sibling and when I went off to college my brother was in kindergarten.

I worked very hard to keep in touch, even from a great distance and somehow we managed to stay close. People are often shocked at our extreme age difference because we are best friends to this day. He and I live in the same city, and I couldn't be happier about that.

BIG SIB

Dear Sib: It is definitely possible to maintain and even enhance a relationship from a distance. Technology has made this much easier, and keeping in touch through photo-sharing and social networks is a lot of fun. Even though I still love to send and receive U.S. mail, it's hard to beat the convenience of the Internet.

askamy@tribune.com

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