Cold Comfort

13 Aug

Dear LetterBalm: All my life as a mother I’ve tried to reach out to my daughter but she’s never responded emotionally to me. She’s now 43, and she has never shown any empathy and caring for her mother. We’re not estranged or anything, and she’s always polite, but she’s just … distant. If I need emotional support or concern after big life events like surgery or the death of my husband, her father, she really can’t summon any deep feelings of shared sympathy. I’ve tried to talk with her about this, but she says the mother-daughter relationship doesn’t include unconditional empathy from a daughter to her mother. She also says she’s not required to “take care” of me when I get old and infirm. I’m 67 now and in reasonably good health, but I’m worried about my future because I know I can’t count on her.

–Mom in Limbo

As sad as this is, Ms. L.B. suggests you swallow your pain and face facts: Your daughter will be no help to you as you age. You’re young enough and fit, so you must plan your own future. Don’t delay. Explore eldercare options. See an attorney who specializes in aging/end-of-life issues as well as a good estate lawyer. You need to make provisions for your care and a detailed will, and you need to be proactive in crafting good legal protection for yourself, including various end-of-life wishes, power of attorney and a health care proxy-designate. You don’t want your daughter interfering with your arrangements – a video might be effective in addition to your documents. Talk to a trusted friend or family member willing to take on one or more responsibilities, or, in your case, an impartial executor may be best for everything. When all is in place, only you can know if you want to inform your daughter. If you do, keep it non-judgmental. Your conversation might go something like this:

Audrey, I’ve taken you at your word and removed you from any responsibilities, including power of attorney, as I get older. I’ve made all the arrangements for my care; I have an impartial eldercare attorney empowered to manage that. An executor will make any end-of-life decisions and handle my estate after I pass on. Of course, you will be consulted, but the people I’ve appointed will have the final word. Their contact information is in my desk drawer with the important family documents. I hope this relieves you of any anxieties you may have.

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