DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother was recently placed in a nursing/rehabilitation facility. After several months of observation, I would like to offer an open letter to those who work in such places.
"It is true I have grown older. My body won't do what it used to do. My eyes aren't as bright, and sometimes I have trouble finding the right words. But I do have a name, and it's not 'Honey' or 'Sweetie.' I have experienced much, and I have learned much. Your history books are my personal history. There is a lot I could teach you.
"You don't have to shout; I will tell you if I can't hear you. I have known great love and great tragedy in the years I have spent on this earth. I have spent decades learning to take care of myself, and it's hard having to rely on others.
"I need your help, but please don't talk to me as if I were a 2-year-old or a puppy. I'm too polite to say so, but I see when you roll your eyes or heave a sigh that says you'd rather be anywhere else but with me. These are my final years, and I've worked a lifetime to get here. Give me the dignity I deserve. All too soon, you will want the same." -- DAUGHTER IN ANDERSON, IND.
DEAR DAUGHTER: Your letter carries an important message. But please remember that the staff in nursing homes work long hours, often for minimum wage, and they all may not have been properly trained in caring for elderly and dementia patients. The work is hard, and the facility may also be understaffed.
It takes a special kind of person to do this work, and many of them deserve medals. However, if you feel that your mother's care is not up to par and that her dignity is not being respected, you should discuss it with the director of the facility.
DEAR ABBY: For the last 10 years, a family of four has come to our home for every Christmas and Easter meal. It started when my wife invited a co-worker. They had no family in town and nowhere else to go.
My wife's relationship with the woman has cooled, but the family assumes they are automatically invited and show up without being asked. They spend more time talking to our other family members than they do to us.
How do I politely let them know we no longer wish for them to come to our family meals? -- FAMILY ONLY IN MISSISSIPPI
DEAR FAMILY ONLY: Your wife should tell her co-worker that your plans for the holidays have changed, that the two of you are scaling back the festivities to include only family members.
She should be sure to convey this news in plenty of time for her co-worker to make other arrangements -- whether it will be preparing something herself or getting together with another family. Now would be a perfect time to do it.
DEAR ABBY: I would like to be fluent in another foreign language, but I don't have enough time to practice the language. What could I possibly do? -- RAFAELA IN BRAZIL
DEAR RAFAELA: Regardless of what language you want to learn, it won't be possible unless you are willing (and able) to put in the time to practice. If I were in your situation, I'd take a basic grammar class in the language, then try to find exchange students who speak it and spend time with them. And if you're not married and find an attractive man among them, that will give you even more incentive.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
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