Mother-in-law shows clear signs of serious problems

Published 9:27 am Friday, June 7, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

DEAR ABBY: I am fortunate to have a great relationship with my in-laws. We live half a continent apart, so although we video chat often, we get to see them in person only two or three times a year. They are recent retirees, and we are planning to relocate together to a new location that is closer to my family and would be a desirable place for them to spend their retirement. 

A couple years ago, my mother in-law, “Irene,” passed out twice in one day. Since then, she has been showing signs of cognitive decline. She has trouble finding words when speaking, leaves out words in writings, has some forgetfulness and an involuntary, repetitive facial tic. She refuses to speak with her doctor about it. 

During their last visit, my husband talked with his father about our concerns for her health, and when his father spoke with Irene about it, she went ballistic! Abby, I don’t know what to do. We are excited about moving to the same town as my in-laws so they can spend more time with their grandkids, but if she’s not being honest about what’s going on, I won’t be comfortable having her and my easily distracted father-in-law spend time alone with our children. 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

I also would like to plan for the future to make sure we are set up to help provide care for Irene if her condition worsens. If I can’t bring this issue up with her, it will eventually damage the relationship that I feel so fortunate to have. Is there anything I can do, or do I stay quiet? – READY TO STEP UP


DEAR READY: When Irene collapsed twice in one day, was she taken to the emergency room? Wasn’t her doctor notified then? Her subsequent cognitive decline could be related to those incidents. Your husband and father-in-law should inform her doctor about EVERYthing that has been going on so that when she has her regular annual checkups (PLEASE tell me they have them) your mother-in-law can be evaluated physically AND neurologically. It would be an absolute shame if something could be done to address her condition and it was ignored. 

On a slightly different subject, if and when you all move to the new community, it might be wise to scope out assisted living facilities for your in-laws.


DEAR ABBY: My husband and I disagree about when we can celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. We were married on June 16, 1974. I believe we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary on June 16, 2024. However, he insists that a child celebrates her first birthday after the child has lived through that first year. He says we must live the 50th year before it is our 50th anniversary – on June 16, 2025. – COUNTING IN TEXAS


DEAR COUNTING: Wedding anniversaries are calculated based on the date of the wedding ceremony. They are not counted based on the 12 months you endured afterward. You shouldn’t have to wait an extra year to celebrate such a monumental occasion. If he’s not ready to celebrate, ask him to simply say so, but do not let him use this argument as an excuse. 


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.


For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order “How to Be Popular.” Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)