Dear Annie: I am 24 and have four small children under age 10. My mother was in a car accident last fall that left her paralyzed from the chest down, and she now lives with us. With hardly any help from my older sister, I struggle every day trying to take care of everyone's needs.
Mom screams at me and makes the smallest of things seem like the end of the world. I don't want to see her in a nursing home, but I cannot do this 24/7. I'm losing my mind and my life. My kids don't want to be around me, and my oldest son's grades are declining.
Do I keep going, hoping things will get better? Or do I break the news to my mom that I love her dearly but can't take care of her? — A.
Dear A.: You sound like a wonderful, caring daughter, but Mom is probably depressed and angry, and is taking it out on you. There are limits to what you can reasonably do for her without sacrificing the well-being of your children. Please don't feel guilty. Your mother needs more help than you can give her. She not only requires round-the-clock physical care, but also would benefit from counseling to deal with her other issues and come to terms with her current situation.
Please look into home-health care options, including a full-time caregiver (perhaps your sister would contribute to the cost), as well as nearby nursing homes. Most do an excellent job, and you can visit Mom every day, not only to cheer her up, but also to check on her care. Then please get some counseling for yourself in order to get through this, because we doubt Mom is going to make it easy.
Dear Annie: Is it OK to ask my 80-year-old parents whether they will leave any inheritance for my siblings and me? I'm not looking to spend it. But getting an answer will help with our future retirement planning. Of course, as with most families, there are all kinds of additional "wonderful" dynamics at work that complicate asking. What is your stance on this? — Wondering
Dear Wondering: Children should never assume there is an inheritance to receive. Plan your retirement according to what you can manage on your own. You can, however, discuss your parents' plans for their future care, asking whether they have a health care power of attorney, a will, any wishes for their funeral, etc. These are important things that ought to be arranged while your parents are capable of doing so. However, if they resist discussing end-of-life issues, please leave it alone.
Dear Annie: I teach treatment of sexual dysfunction at Loma Linda University School of Medicine. You correctly identify low testosterone as an important cause of loss of desire. However, I have found in many cases that the cause is simple boredom with a wife's participation.
Men and women both require an average of 12 minutes of foreplay to reach full arousal. A wife who takes turns providing pleasure should find her partner more eager for sex. Men respond to action far more than words. When there is an expectation of prolonged mutual pleasuring, it creates a lovely aura of arousal long before the clothes come off.
Please remind women that a man is aroused by the sight of his wife's naked body not because she's a supermodel, but because her body is only shown to him. Mood lighting can help. A semi-closed dressing gown or the sight of her in one of his not-quite-long-enough shirts can be a powerful visual stimulant to a man who sees offering sex as the most powerful statement of love and caring.
You do great good by helping women understand that men will never behave or understand them the way a girlfriend does. We men really are different and often are unable to express our needs clearly. — D.B. M.D. Loma Linda, Calif.
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