MORRIS: Ask his doctor about depression, which is common -- and commonly ignored -- in the elderly. Don't accept "He's old, what do you expect?" because depression is a disease, and it is not 'normal' at any age. If you are told that, take him elsewhere for treatment. Continue sending home to the senior center, as getting out and being around others is a good habit. Consider other things he might enjoy -- audio books, hobbies, stuffing envelopes for a local non-profit, a pet of some sort. Perhaps a student who needs to do some community service work might do something with him a few afternoons each week. Get your father-in-law to do some small errands or chores for you. And he should get some exercise, even if it's just walking to the store or around the block. Look out for yourself and your marriage. Do things the two of you enjoy, time when you are not discussing your father-in-law.
ANNA, Ontario, Calif.: I'm 41 years old, married and have a 17 and 12 year old sons. My father was just diagnosed this month with early stage dementia, but has been showing some signs for about 2 years prior. My father will be 77 yrs. old but only takes less than 5 medications a day with only arthritis and BPH to date in his medical history, until now. Physically he can still manage to travel out of the country every 6 months and most of the 6 months here in the states are spent with me in my home. I have been changed by all of this and my only mission now is to preserve my father's and also my mother's dignity and that the rest of their lives are spent a happy one. I'm torn because i feel my sons and my husband are not only continuing to live their lives as they please, spending less of their time at home and when home they show little regard to provide any socialization to my parents. It seems as though only pressure from me to them is when they make some effort. Although my sons are teenagers and my husband and I have work or sporting activities etc. I feel this is a small sacrifice from us to give to these two wonderful people who have done nothing but LOVE us all. I feel that after having so many heart to heart discussions about how I feel to my husband and sons and crying, begging for them to do this now while they still have time, not just in our home but while they are still alive, I feel as though my plea for support has gone unnoticed or unimportant above their own personal day to day needs and wants. This time is temporary no matter what and I resent my family very much because they can't see that. Why can't we put our lives on hold, but only for a moment? I need to understand this because I don't think my marriage will survive this battle against my "mission" Please help me!! Thank you.
MORRIS: First, kudos to you for loving your parents so deeply and for wanting to care for them. However -- big however -- you can't expect others to share your devotion or your mission. Resenting them will not only hurt them and you -- perhaps irreparably -- but it will hurt your parents. Surely they would be devastated if their care broke up your marriage or distanced you from your sons. You need to accept that your husband and your sons are never going to feel as you do, no matter how hard you push. It's not that they are uncaring or insensitive; surely if you were sick and needed care, they would be on a 'mission.' But these aren't their parents, and they aren't you.