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    Annie's Mailbox

    Ask Amy column

    Q. My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago and has steadily slowed down. She comes to visit my family three times a year.

    We used to have so much fun — going for walks, playing games, or going to movies and shows. But now she no longer can remember the rules to the game or the plot of the story and is nervous when walking longer distances (understandable for an 87-year-old).

    She often slips into a kind of stupor and loses track of whatever we are doing, whether it be dinner or meeting old friends.


    I’m wondering if you could suggest some things we could do with her? She is such a different person than she used to be, and we are at a loss as to how to make her stay with us enjoyable!


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    A. You don’t say when the last time you saw your grandmother was or how long you plan to have her with you, but you should get complete and thorough information on her current status from her caregiver.

    Many people with Alzheimer’s have periods during the day when they are more alert. Get as much information as you can about her particular habits and familiar foods. Eliminate any safety hazards in your home, and understand that she may get out of bed and get confused at night.

    Instead of prompting her to try to remember people or stories she may not remember, try to stay in her moment. You can leaf through a photo album, art book, or a travel magazine and ask her to tell you a story about what she sees on the page. Ask open-ended questions: “What does that make you think of?” Listen to her, even if she doesn’t track well — and don’t push her.

    Listening to music with her could be enjoyable for all of you. She may want to sing or recite portions of lyrics, nursery rhymes, or stories from long ago.


    The Alzheimer’s Association has helpful caregiving ideas on its website: check

    Q. I’m a woman and have been friends with my best pal, “Barry,” from the time we were toddlers. He has always been like a brother to me, but recently I’ve been subjected to what seems like a controlling father figure instead of a best friend/brother figure.

    I recently had my lip pierced. He said I was supposed to ask him for his opinion first. He said he was very let down by my doing this without his permission.

    When I said I was 25 and allowed to do as I pleased he insisted that we’re brother and sister and that we’re supposed to approve each other’s decisions. He said he did not approve of my piercing — or my boyfriend.

    I’m very happy with my life, happier than in previous years of being single or with abusive ex-boyfriends, yet Barry can’t seem to realize this. Should I give my relationship with Barry more space? Should I cut him off completely? I’m starting to feel very awkward and weird when I’m around him; even his girlfriend says he’s becoming very overbearing.

    Tired “Sister”


    A. If your life has been full of dramatic up-and-down swings (including abusive boyfriends), then “Barry” may have gotten the idea that you need him to approve your choices — certainly if some of your choices in the past have not been healthy.

    However, there are red flags here, and you should pay attention. If he is trying to control your decisions and seriously insists on prior approval — and mentally or emotionally punishes you when you don’t do as he says — then yes, you should definitely keep your distance.

    Send questions via e-mail to or by mail to Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60611.