Dear Ann Cannon • I hope you can settle this argument between my daughter and me. My wife has gained quite a bit of weight over the past few years, which she is not happy about. In fact, she spends a lot of time complaining about how she looks and how nothing fits anymore, etc. I love her no matter how she looks, but she obviously doesn’t feel the same way about herself.
Anyway, her birthday is coming up and I was wondering if I should give her a membership to something like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig or whatever. I ran this idea past our married daughter, and she looked at me like I had horns sprouting out of my head. She told me that this was a terrible idea and that it would only make things worse. What do you think?
— Just Wants to Be Helpful Husband
Dear Husband • Ummm, as a woman who has struggled with weight issues since high school, I am definitely Team Daughter on this one. Even if your gift is given with the best of intentions, it will only make your wife feel worse about herself. Seriously, for the sake of your marriage, trust me on this one. Your wife needs to be the one who makes the decision about how to manage her weight. So how can you help? By loving her no matter how much (or how little) she weighs.
(FYI for all you guys out there: If a woman asks you if something makes her rear end look big, the answer is always, always “no.” Always.)
In my answer to Exasperated Sibling last week, I focused on the writer’s frustration with her sister rather than on the elderly mother’s condition. A number of readers kindly took me to task for ignoring the larger problem. The following letters are typical of their responses.
Dear Ann Cannon • You are always so perceptive that I think you must have been distracted on one of today’s responses. The mother, who “these days, however, she’s pretty weepy and depressed...” Yes, that mother is undoubtedly depressed — and needs skilled medical attention! Depression is unfortunately too common among the elderly, and the suicide rate for people over 65 is both high and rising. Please tell Exasperated Sibling to get her mother to a doctor and to not take no — from either the mother or the doctor — for an answer! It really is a matter of life or death.
Dear Ann Cannon • While Exasperated Sibling was asking about her sibling who could not bear to visit Mom because of her drastically different personality, it seems everyone is ignoring the elephant in the room, which is that Mom isn’t herself.
There are many reasons that an older person may not be of good cheer, but the situation deserves to be evaluated by a physician or nurse practitioner with expertise in geriatrics. There could be physical problems causing pain or poor energy, there could be depression, there could even be early dementia. Mom deserves expert medical treatment to help her enjoy her remaining years. Once she has received appropriate treatment, which might include therapy, the whole family can come together and enjoy each other more like they used to.
Too many older people (and their families) assume that feeling poorly and having a less-than-desirable quality of life is normal. It is not. Get help.
— A Nurse Practitioner