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Constant complaints try patience

DEAR ANNIE:Our dad is in his 80s. In the past few years, he has become the poster child for whining. My siblings and I have gently brought this to his attention, but he insists it is not whining, it's commentary.

We call every day and visit once a week. It has become a running joke to see how long it will take before he complains. It starts with "I didn't sleep well" or "My stomach is upset" or "I'm so tired." I appreciate that senior citizens have aches and pains, but to listen to him, you'd think those were the only words in his vocabulary.

We take healthy meals to his house, along with fruits and vegetables. He still grumbles about not eating. He does have a few medical issues, but they are acceptable for someone his age. I think he is depressed, but heaven forbid he get counseling. To him, that is a sign of weakness. We have tried to get him involved in community activities and take him to church, but he has no interest. It is much easier for him to play the victim. We love him dearly, but he is trying our patience. Suggestions? — Worried About Dad

DEAR WORRIED:Some people complain because it garners them attention, and you could be right that Dad is depressed. It's also possible he has medical issues that he hasn't discussed with his doctor. Instead of bringing him meals, take him out for dinner so you can see what he is actually eating. Inadequate nutrition and dehydration can be serious. Ask if you can accompany him to his next doctor's appointment, where you can alert the doctor to what is going on. If Dad isn't seeing a geriatrician, consider asking his doctor for a referral.

DEAR ANNIE:I raised my three children on my own after my wife died unexpectedly many years ago. The youngest, now 30, has Down syndrome and for a time, had severe health concerns. I took an early retirement to be with her. Today, fortunately, she is fine. The problem is, if I attempt to do anything — apply for a new job, date, take a class — my extended family disapproves. I was even criticized by family members for being late setting up the air conditioner in the summer.

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Of course, when my daughter was sick, few of these people came around. Any advice? Or should I just ignore them? — At Wits' End in Connecticut

DEAR CONNECTICUT:Ignore them. They have no business interfering in your decisions or judging what you choose to do with your life. Say, "Thank you for your opinion," and then do whatever you think best.

DEAR ANNIE:I feel compelled to write to "Heartbroken in Michigan," whose boyfriend shows signs of being an abuser.

In my teens, I dated a guy who treated me the same way. I didn't listen to my parents when they told me to leave him. I thought I knew everything at age 16. Years later, I continue to live with the aftershock of being beaten, controlled and stalked. He never hit my face because then people would know. I loved him, but he was not worth my life and self-esteem.

I only found the strength to leave after 14 years, when I met the man who is now my fiance. I want to tell her: He doesn't love you and will not change, and it is not your fault. Love is acceptance, not control. Talk to your mom, aunt, a friend's mom, anyone, and build a network of people who care about and love you. Go to loveisrespect.org (National Teen Dating Abuse Help). I turned my story into a positive by speaking to young women at my former high school. — Understands in the Northeast

DEAR UNDERSTANDS:Thank you for sharing your story. We hope others in similar situations will find the same strength.

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