Ask Amy: Caregiving spouse overwhelmed by emails from concerned friends, relatives

Dear Amy: My wife was recently hospitalized, and, as I have done previously, I sent messages to family and her friends to let them know her status.

After each message, I received many in return, some asking questions that required a personal response.

When my wife was about to be discharged, I received multiple offers to help with shopping and other chores.

I had to write a tactful response to each, explaining that her diet has to be carefully controlled, so I have to do the shopping.

I have such mixed feelings about the incoming messages. It is wonderful that family and friends care, but the volume of traffic requiring a response has been a burden on me at a difficult time.

What do you think is the proper protocol when receiving an update on CaringBridge, or through a mass email like mine?

Should people think good thoughts but maybe not respond directly?

Respond with a banal thanks/best wishes message?

Or demonstrate interest and caring by asking for more information, thus creating a stressor for the caregiver?

Thanks so much for the insights in your column, which I read in the LA Times.

I look forward to your thoughts on this puzzler.

– M, in Santa Barbara, California

Dear M: I think it is normal, rational, and thoughtful to respond quickly and directly to a CaringBridge message or a group email when the message contains an important update about someone you care about.

I completely understand the stress that these messages can create.

However, even though you cannot control when or how people respond, you CAN control their expectations regarding a return response from you.

At the end of each of your email updates, you should include a couple of sentences like this: “Thank you all for your caring and concern. It means so much to both of us. I hope you understand that unfortunately I cannot respond promptly, if at all. I do read and appreciate each and every message, however. We are fortunate to have so many thoughtful friends.”

Put this message in bold print, so people make sure to see it.

It would also be helpful if you could assign a savvy and sensitive friend or family member to coordinate any needs that your circle of friends can fulfill, whether it is helping out for a few hours by cooking, cleaning, driving, or reading aloud to your wife while you rest.

Dear Amy: My daughter, “Shelley,” is in her mid-30s. She was married three years ago and, sadly, the marriage ended one year later.

My brother’s daughter is now planning her wedding in the same location as my daughter’s wedding.

Shelley is very upset, hurt and angry that her cousin is planning to have her wedding at the same location, knowing the details of why her marriage ended.

Shelley is requesting emotional support, alliance, and a listening ear regarding her feelings.

I have provided all of these things but will attend my niece’s wedding.

Shelley will not attend, nor allow my granddaughter to participate in the wedding.

I say it is time for her to accept her past and move on, and to acknowledge that she is blessed to be out of the marriage.

I realize that she is disappointed, but I am tired of hearing that her cousin is selfish and is not caring about her feelings. Her cousin reached out to her to talk about having her wedding at the same location.

I recommended virtual therapy for her because she was so angry, which she is attending.

– Stressed Mom

Dear Stressed: Your daughter does not have the right to try to control her cousin’s choice of wedding venue, but anyone could imagine how hard it might be for your daughter to revisit the scene of her own nuptials, so soon after her own marriage ended.

Should she keep her own daughter away or insist that you must not the wedding? No.

You’ve done a great job “momming” this issue. I hope your daughter gets it together.

Dear Amy: I was offended when you replied to a stepparent “You are not this daughter’s parent.” How dare you! Stepparents ARE parents.

– Offended

Dear Offended: I have four stepchildren, and I have helped to raise them.

However, “Upset Stepparent” never once referred to this drug-addicted adult daughter as her “stepdaughter,” but only as “my husband’s daughter.”

She implied that she had never even spoken to this particular daughter, leading me to conclude that she was more or less refusing this important parental role.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.