Ask Amy

Ask Amy column

Q. My father-in-law has an early form of dementia and tends to repeat himself frequently. The stories he tells about the good old days or his trials and tribulations at work (he has a part-time job) are familiar to the family.

Because he is unaware of how long he’s been talking, his wife will often just walk away from the conversation, rolling her eyes in frustration, and leaving the family member or visitor stranded while he rambles on.

She will then engage one of her children to vent her frustration about their father, often putting the man down in the process.


Should a mother do such a thing to an adult child? After all, her husband is still their father and can’t help himself.

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

What do you suggest they do when she does this?

Upset Daughter-in-Law

A. The first response to your mother-in-law’s behavior should be to ask her how she is and if she needs help.

Her reaction to her husband’s dementia is disrespectful, but the frustration behind it is understandable. Living with someone with dementia is extremely taxing. If you feel “stranded” with him while he rambles during a visit, imagine what it is like for her.


Her expressions are signs that she might not have the temperament to cope well with this challenge.

Her children should say to her, “Mom, we’re concerned about the way you are coping with dad. It upsets us when you are so impatient toward him; please don’t talk that way. We are worried about both of you.”

The Alzheimer’s Association ( hosts an informative website about caring for someone with dementia. The 24-hour help line is staffed by clinicians who can give advice about care and caregiving, 800-272-3900. The children should approach this health issue as a family to make sure both parents get the care and support they need.

Q. I met my boyfriend seven months ago. He’s the sweetest, most loving and caring man I’ve ever met.

He has two young kids that he takes care of full time and a demanding job. He’s been divorced for two years. We were dreaming about growing old together.


This summer I had to go out of the country for six weeks. While I was away, he got a promotion and was asked to move to a different city. He had to move before my return. My initial reaction was just to let him go so he would have one less thing in his life to deal with. With the passage of time, I miss him more. I contacted him again. He misses me too.

I need to decide whether to stay in a long-distance relationship or quit. But I don’t know where to start. I also have two children. I own a house and have a job here. He didn’t ask me to move with him. We didn’t even have a chance to discuss our options or say goodbye. How do people decide in situations like these?


A. You met this man seven months ago. During that time you two were separated for several weeks. Given these circumstances, it is quite premature to engage in “all or nothing” thinking.

Long-distance relationships are challenging (especially with children involved), but in your case a long-distance relationship could help you to slow down, learn to communicate, and over time clarify your intentions.

Your guy relocated quickly and suddenly while you were away; unless you get definite signals from him, assume he is not interested in pursuing this.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at