Q. My father has cancer, along with other health issues. Though his prognosis is fine, my mother seems to be showing a complete lack of concern or involvement with his health care.
He has gone to oncologist and radiologist visits by himself. He was hospitalized after a doctor’s visit, and she did not even go to visit him in the hospital.
My biggest concern is that by her not realistically dealing with this issue now it could lead to an emotional breakdown later (this has happened to her before with another family issue).
Do you have any suggestions for her adult children to help her face reality, or is it OK to let her deal with things by avoidance?
A. As a family, your immediate attention should be toward your father’s care. The most available and medically competent family member should accompany him on medical visits.
It sounds as if your mother’s avoidance is extreme. Because she has a history of emotional struggles in times of stress, you should ask your father’s treatment team if they can recommend a therapist, social worker, or support group for your mother. She may have an extreme amount of anxiety about this.
Obviously, your mother should not deal with this by avoidance or denial, but her impairment and your father’s illness are your family’s reality, and you should not assume she will be useful to him.
Q. The other day a friend and I were talking about adoption. I am adopted, and my friend told me she has an aunt who is adopted but doesn’t know it.
She is about 50 years old and has grown up thinking her adoptive parents are her biological parents; she has no idea she is not biologically related, but everyone in her family knows that she is adopted. Do you think they should tell her?
A. I think an entire family knowing the truth about something as intimate and important as a person’s biological heritage while keeping it a secret from the person herself is wrong. And now you know about this person’s adoption while she’s in the dark.
You should share your unique insight with your friend and urge her to encourage her family to be truthful.
Q. A single mom signing her letter “I’m Her Mom” outlined a challenge related to her mother’s extreme opinions regarding eating, weight, and body image.
Wow, this resonated with me because I dealt with a very similar dynamic in my own family. You were right to say that eating disorders can be passed from one generation to the next. When I saw this happening in my family, I firmly controlled my mother’s access to my children, certainly when it came to food.
I’m happy to say that my children grew up with healthy eating habits and body image.
A. You successfully interrupted this vicious cycle. Good for you!
Q. The letter in your column from “Big Sis” took me back.
I was a much older sibling, and when I went to college my brother was in kindergarten.
I worked very hard to keep in touch, even from a great distance, and somehow we managed to stay close. People are often shocked at our extreme age difference because we are best friends to this day.
A. It is possible to maintain and enhance a relationship from a distance. Technology has made this much easier, and keeping in touch through photo-sharing and social networks is fun.