Dear Annie: My 5-year-old daughter, "Susie," is frightened of her grandfather, my father. We see him only two or three times a year because he lives over a thousand miles away, but I have been diligent about letting Susie visit.
My father is not and never has been a "kid" person — you know, someone who gets down on the floor and plays. Susie has never warmed up to him or given him so much as a hello without a lot of coaching and encouragement.
My father is hurt and confused by Susie's behavior. I don't expect him to change his approach at this age, but he thinks I shelter Susie from him. The truth is, I've tried everything to reassure her that Dad is not scary, but she refuses to have anything to do with him. I should mention that Susie is warm and loving with all her other male relatives, especially her great-uncles. There's just something about my dad that frightens her, and she isn't able to explain it to me yet.
I've run out of weak excuses to try to make my dad feel better. And, no, there has never been any opportunity for abuse. We have another visit coming up, and the situation has grown so uncomfortable that I'm not looking as forward to it as I usually would. How should I handle this? — Seattle Mom
Dear Seattle: The most likely reason Susie is afraid of Grandpa is that she doesn't see him often enough. Each visit, he's been a stranger. Now, all she remembers is the negative reaction.
Try telling Susie funny or loving stories about Grandpa during the year, especially before she visits, and show her current photographs of him so she connects the stories to the person. Let her know how much Grandpa loves her and that he's eager to see her. She also is old enough for you to explain that Grandpa doesn't always understand little children, so she needs to help him out.
Dear Annie: I understand there is no real way to test for Alzheimer's. The only way to know for certain is to do an autopsy.
I have a friend whose father has all the symptoms, but they call it dementia. So my question is, when they say someone has Alzheimer's, do they just assume that's what it is, or do they have a sure way of knowing? — Curious in Louisiana
Dear Curious: According to the Alzheimer's Association, there is no one diagnostic test that can detect if a person has Alzheimer's disease. The process involves several kinds of tests and may take more than one day.
A diagnosis is made by reviewing a detailed history on the person and the results of several tests, including a complete physical and neurological examination, a psychiatric assessment and laboratory tests. Once these tests are completed, a diagnosis of "probable" Alzheimer's disease can be made by ruling out other causes of dementia. However, physicians are fairly certain the diagnosis is accurate.
Local chapters of the Alzheimer's Association can refer you to physicians and/or diagnostic centers in your area. For more information, log on to www.alz.org, or call the Alzheimer's Association's helpline at 1-800-272-3900.
Dear Annie: Finding help for stuttering can be frustrating and discouraging for parents, teens and adults who stutter. Many are repeatedly told "they'll outgrow it," but the three million Americans who struggle daily with stuttering know it's not always "just a phase."
International Stuttering Awareness Day, Oct. 22, is an opportune time to once again let your readers know that help and information are readily available from the Stuttering Foundation at 1-800-992-9392 (stutteringhelp.org or, in Spanish, www.tartamudez.org). — Jane Fraser, President, The Stuttering Foundation
Dear Jane Fraser: We are happy to help out. Thanks for all the good work you do.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.