Dear Annie: My mother is 95 years old and in OK shape. She has been diagnosed with dementia, and her physician recommended a full-time caregiver because Mom is confused most of the time. She still lives in her home, refusing to leave, and my two siblings and I take care of her the best we can.
When we were growing up, Mom was mentally abusive to us and physically abusive to my father. She was not a good mother. When we go to her home to clean and cook, she yells and screams about the same things over and over to the point where I often have to leave. She is not a happy person, always focusing on the negative things in her life. Mom refuses to go to a nursing home, and we cannot force her. Our lives are in a constant state of turmoil and severe stress with no end in sight.
Here's the real problem: Mom's pacemaker is due for replacement. If we don't act relatively soon, the batteries may die and the pacemaker will cease to function. Obviously, that means Mom could die from heart failure. My two siblings don't want to have the maintenance done. They say her mind is deteriorating so quickly, it would be pointless. They are willing to throw caution to the wind. But, Annie, I don't think I can live with myself if we don't replace the batteries. I need your help. — Outvoted
Dear Outvoted: Please don't have regrets when your mother dies. These choices can haunt you forever. Ask to speak to Mom's doctor about the pacemaker and her dementia. Even outpatient surgery may be too much for her to handle. Let the doctor advise you. Then look into pooling your resources and getting a caregiver, at least part time, in order to give the rest of you a break. Eldercare Locator at eldercare.gov (1-800-677-1116) and the Alzheimer's Association (alz.org) can also provide resources and support.
Dear Annie: My second wife and I have been married for four years. She has two sons from her previous marriage, and I have one daughter and three sons from mine. The problem is how much we spend on them at Christmas.
I say we spend an equal amount on all of the kids. She thinks we should spend twice as much on her two children because I have four. I want to be fair and equitable about this, but cannot seem to convince her that her logic could backfire. These children are all adults in their 20s, and two of them are married.
If I am wrong, I will concede. If I am correct, please help me get this across to her. — Lost in Love
Dear Lost: If you and your wife have separate incomes, she can spend what she likes on her kids, and you can spend what you choose on yours. However, assuming you are pooling your money and buying gifts together, we say that you should spend the same on all of the children. This isn't a competition between your kids and hers. They are ALL your children now and should be treated equally.
Dear Annie: In your response to "Actively Confused," the husband of the cancer patient, I wish you had emphasized that the wife might have depression.
I was treated for breast cancer 13 years ago. A year after the surgery and radiation, I suffered from major depression, partly caused by the stress of having a serious illness and the hormonal chemotherapy involved. Although I was at higher risk because of a previous episode of depression, it is also something that can happen to anyone with a life-threatening illness.
Irritability and anger are often overlooked as symptoms of depression. If the woman's oncologist is not helpful, perhaps the patient's primary care physician or a mental health professional would be. — Doing Well in Virginia
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2014. 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.