Mother needs break in caring for paralyzed son

DEAR ANNIE: Two years ago, my then 15-year-old son was paralyzed in a diving accident. I am his primary caregiver. Make no mistake, I am not complaining about caring for my child. I would do anything for him.

The problem is, I can no longer go anywhere without taking my son, which means I don’t go anywhere at all. Meanwhile, my husband goes out nearly every night to hang with his friends, go bowling or take in a baseball game. He doesn’t think twice about leaving me home. It doesn’t occur to him to volunteer to take care of our son so I can get some downtime.

People often offer to help me, but my son refuses to have anyone else take care of him. It’s starting to affect every aspect of my life. How do I discuss this with my husband and child without sounding selfish? — Wish I Could Turn Back Time in N.J.

DEAR N.J.: You deserve a break. Your husband is not only being unhelpful, it sounds like he intentionally avoids his responsibilities at home. But you also are allowing your son to dictate his care to the point where you are burned out. It’s OK to tell him that, like it or not, someone else will occasionally fill in.

We urge you to contact some support groups. Most states offer a caregiver support program. Also try the Family Caregiver Alliance ( at 1-800-445-8106; the National Family Caregivers Association ( at 1-800-896-3650; and Exceptional Parent Magazine ( Here are a few stress-reducing tips from


Incorporate activities that give you pleasure. Listen to music, work in the garden, take a warm bath and light candles. Find time for a manicure or massage. Eat balanced meals to nurture your body. Exercise, even if it’s a short walk. Do the best you can to sleep at least seven hours a night. Buy a light-hearted book or rent a comedy. Keep a journal. Write down your thoughts and feelings. Seek out friends and family to help you so you can have some time away from the home. If it is difficult to leave, invite friends and family over to visit. It is important that you interact with others.

DEAR ANNIE: My daughter, "Sharon," is a good-hearted person, a wonderful mother, has a great career and is active in her church. But her house is an absolute mess. Things are stacked everywhere, the closet doors don’t close, and there are dirty dishes lying around. They have a dog and it smells like it. Her husband starts projects and leaves them unfinished and messy. It isn’t for lack of time. They both have the entire summer off and regular vacations.

We have offered to help, but they refuse. Is there anything we can say without harming our relationship? We don’t visit the grandchildren as much as we would like because it upsets us. — Frustrated Parents

DEAR PARENTS: Unless the grandchildren are getting sick, leave it alone. Sharon and her husband may have some hoarding issues or attention deficit problems, but they have to be willing to work on them. When you want to see the family, invite them to your place or meet them in a neutral location.

DEAR ANNIE: I read the letter from "Confused in Tulsa," who found e-mailed pictures of his girlfriend on another man’s lap. People have lost their common sense. Who would have a fling, take pictures and keep them? Either that girlfriend is positively stupid, or her objective was to break up with her boyfriend.

We all do idiotic things, but I would never put them on film. I don’t believe confession is all that good for the soul, either. What happened in your past is better left there, and the details are nobody’s business. Couples that think everything should be revealed are laying the foundation for later trouble. — Fortville, Ind.

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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