Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: I have a hard time knowing how to show my love to my mother, a cranky old woman in a lot of pain. If I try to kiss her cheek as I leave, she grunts! If I try to engage her in conversation, she says, "Can't you see I'm in pain? Leave me alone." Honestly, there is nothing good about going over to help, when she's so nasty. She isn't terribly sick, but she's lonely.
She says she doesn't want to sell and go to an "old folks' home" or she might "lose her marbles." We have the money to help her move into an independent living situation where there would be company and activities and fun with people her own age. What should I do? Last night I heard a voice in my head say, "To heck with her. I'm not going where I'm not wanted." I do take her to the doctor regularly, where she is perfectly pleasant and tells him she has "very little pain." What an act! -- Tearing My Hair Out, Winnipeg
Dear Tearing: Your mom needs contact with people other than family, where she will behave better than with her children who "have" to love her. She sounds depressed and might need medication to boost her into a happier, more social gear. Speak to her doctor next time you take her. Follow her right in the door, and tell the doctor how she's behaving and your concerns about her mood.
Right now, start collecting all the seniors activities information you can from newspapers and listings, and offer to drive her to and from some activities. Be aware some mothers and daughters get along better when they go out to movies and concerts. Staying home to visit is just more depressing time your mother spends in the house.
You can also help her by making a list with her of her favourite TV shows and times, and possibly training her on the computer with a list of emails for her friends and family online. Ditto for a phone list taped on the wall by the phone. Older people sometimes forget about phoning friends and extended family they'd enjoy talking to.
If you suspect she's eating "tea and toast" and not cooking, Meals on Wheels at 204-956-7711 is an option at $6 a daily meal with a pre-payment of $25 and enough money for 10 meals, and bills go out monthly after that. To the areas where they can't deliver on the weekends, they double up so people can save the weekend meals.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: This is in response to the person who wrote in about the mother of three who had her 13-year-old daughter looking after her two younger children while she went to work at her second job.
The province's daycare subsidy program will charge on a sliding scale so that low-income parents can afford licensed daycare. The children wouldn't be able to stay at the daycare all day and all evening, but it is certainly an option that might help this family at least part of the time. They charge based on the income of the parent. So, the lowest income level would get full coverage. The more money the parent makes the more they'll be required to contribute towards the cost of daycare. Here is a link: http://wfp.to/O4G-- A Little Help
Dear Help: It's hard to understand how little money some people earn. For the mom to pay daycare for the little kids past whatever she already pays for the school day now is probably too much, but she may get a financial break for what she uses now. Thanks for taking the time to write in. Let's hope she read this.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: Bravo, kudos and all that for your answer to Concerned. If mom were unemployed and leaving the kids while she hit the bars, that'd be one thing. But she's not! She and her 13-year-old are trying their best to keep the family together. No doubt the teen especially feels about to be buried under an avalanche of misfortunes already. The last thing she needs is the threat of ending up "in the (foster home) system" along with her siblings and blaming herself for the rest of her life.
Your comments and suggestions were all spot-on. A few more? The young teen needs a few people willing to let her call them when she needs advice, or talk her down when she's climbing the walls or the baby won't stop crying, or when she feels alone. Wish I could help, but I don't live in Winnipeg. -- Hopeful
Dear Hopeful: How does she get all these things in this isolated society? Perhaps it could start with Concerned who wrote in about this young mother and her teenage daughter/babysitter. If she knows the family well enough to go over and offer a helping hand, it would be helpful if she arrived with a list of help numbers from close neighbours willing to help.
Please send your questions or comments c/o firstname.lastname@example.org or Miss Lonelyhearts c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, R2X 3B6.