Niece fears for her unpleasant aunt's safety

Ask Amy Advice

November 11, 2007|By Tribune Media Services

DEAR AMY -- I have a 79-year-old aunt who is driving everyone in the family nuts. I think she has some form of dementia, but my mother and their younger sister say she has always been this way, changing her targets throughout the years.

Nearly seven years ago, she began a campaign to convince the rest of the family that her younger sister is insane -- in her words, "a sociopath," and when we disagreed with her, she demanded that we cease contact.

This year, she targeted my mother. I wrote my aunt, only to have the letter returned with her address scratched out so viciously she tore holes in the envelope. I refolded the letter, put it in another envelope, and used her address as the return address.

I received a nasty reply on, oddly, a religious postcard, saying my letter had "floated, unread, down the trash shoot [sic]." She requested I not send her anything, again, and, so far, I have complied.

Do I let this go? She has alienated the entire family, except her husband, who is just as manipulative, and her only child, a son, who is in prison for life. They live about 150 miles from me, but only about 20 miles from my other aunt and have been observed cruising her neighborhood.

They are well-to-do, and I fear that they may eventually become targets for scammers, yet, because they both have been so nasty to my family and me, my first instinct is to just write them off.

If I keep sending notes in an effort to get through to them, can that be construed as stalking? Are there authorities I can alert because I feel they may be either in danger, or a danger to themselves?

Worried Niece

DEAR NIECE --You should call the Office on Aging in the area where your aunt lives to talk to an elder care caseworker about this. They should be able to contact your aunt and do a home assessment to see if your aunt and uncle are basically well and determine if they need any outside services.

You can keep in touch with a social worker, but, because your contact with your aunt seems to trigger her rage, I agree with you that you shouldn't contact her directly -- at least for now. Occasional contact with a family member wouldn't be considered stalking, though your aunt might not see it that way.

DEAR AMY --I have a question about whether I should send my niece a birthday present.

My sister-in-law decided that she would stop giving her nieces and nephews birthday presents when they turned 18. My niece, her daughter, is turning 19 soon.

I do not want to give her a present because I know that my two children, who are 16 and 13, will not get a present from their aunt past their 18th birthdays. My husband wants to give her a present because he feels it's the right thing to do.

I think it is unfair to our children, because I know they will not receive a gift from her in the future.

Concerned in Sunrise

DEAR CONCERNED --Why are you keeping score? This has nothing to do with your children -- this only has to do with your niece. Looking at this another way, you might even appreciate the fact that your sister-in-law has been clear about what her own gifting limit is, even though you don't agree with it.

You should not compare your choices to anyone else's. If you have the sort of relationship with your niece that makes you inclined to send her a small gift (I would suggest a book or gift card for a modest amount), then go for it. Your niece might be touched and appreciative.

But you shouldn't confuse any gesture toward your niece with what your own kids will or won't receive at a future date.

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