Dear Annie: For almost a year now, I have been a caregiver to my elderly mother and her husband. My mother has dementia, but she really is no trouble to care for. The problem is her husband. He is demanding, controlling and just plain mean. It doesn't matter what I do; in his mind, it's not right. And I get blamed for things that I didn't even do.
When I was asked to move in, I had grave reservations about doing so. Everybody thought it was a great idea, except one sister, who has also endured this abuse. I could handle this a lot easier if the man were my father, but we're only related by marriage. He has grown children, but they don't live close by, so that doesn't help the situation.
I have a son, and the old man delights in teasing him until he cries. How do you explain to a young child why Grandpa is mean? (I suspect he wasn't too nice to his own children, hence the reason they don't come around very much).
Whenever company visits, he is on his best behavior, but as soon as they leave, he's back to being nasty. I live upstairs and only come downstairs to fix meals and to clean the kitchen. I have resorted to ignoring him, but the final straw came when he complained that I should be paying rent. When they asked me to move in, I asked how much rent they wanted me to pay and was told that in exchange for being there for them, I could live there rent-free.
I am at my wits' end. It has come to the point where I actually hate the man. My siblings and I have checked into assisted living, but we don't think our mother will leave her home, so I'm stuck caring for the old tyrant. At this point in time, because of various reasons, I can't move. I'm tired of walking on eggshells and waiting for the next tirade. What do I do now? — Had Enough in the Midwest
Dear Had Enough: Your stepfather's behavior toward your son is a billowing red flag. A classic bully, he has decided to prey upon the weakest, most vulnerable one around. For now, that's your son, but eventually, it will be your mother. Thank goodness she has you looking out for her.
Unless your stepfather is being outright abusive, you'd have trouble getting Adult Protective Services to intervene. For now, your best option might be to continue keeping a close eye on the situation. If it's financially feasible, consider renting an apartment nearby so your son doesn't live in that environment, and pool funds with your siblings to hire a part-time or overnight caretaker to help out. Visit the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse website for more information, at http://www.preventelderabuse.org.
Dear Annie: I have a rather strange situation and am not sure how it should be handled in the future. I have a 3-year-old granddaughter, who is very pretty. I'm not saying this to be conceited, but everywhere she goes people notice. We've had a couple of instances of strangers taking pictures of her on their phones. We are very uncomfortable with this. Why would someone want a photo of a stranger's child? I'm quite terrified that one will end up plastered all over the internet for who knows what reason. Would it be offensive to ask them not to do this? — Concerned Grandma
Dear Concerned: Although it's not illegal, it's inappropriate and invasive for strangers to take photos of your granddaughter. You'd be well within your rights as a concerned grandma to ask them to stop.
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Photo credit: Bernard DUPONT