Dear Annie: I am a 62-year-old male who has lately noticed something, and I’m wondering if it’s the start of a disease of some kind.
I’ve become aware that I often walk down the street holding conversations with imaginary people or those from my past. On a few occasions, I’ve been caught red-handed by others. It’s really embarrassing. What really scares me is it seems to start involuntarily. When I notice other people doing this, my first reaction is, “Who’s that wacko?” I don’t want to be that person.
Is this the beginning of dementia? — Worried in Connecticut
Dear Worried: When this happens, are you daydreaming? Are you working through a problem? Do you do this at home? Do your imaginary friends answer you? It’s not unusual to talk to yourself, especially when your thoughts need sorting through, and if you do it often, it can become habitual — which is why it seems involuntary.
Although this behavior might be perfectly harmless, we think you should talk to your doctor about this. You obviously are having difficulty controlling this behavior. There are tests for mental acuity that can determine whether you are having a problem that needs addressing.
Dear Annie: Recently, a good friend of my husband moved into our neighborhood. I strongly dislike this man’s wife due to several past personal affronts.
My husband tells me she is eager to come by for some decorating ideas (their home is very similar to ours). I absolutely do not want that woman in my house, and I certainly don’t want her copying my style.
Last night, she and her husband “dropped in.” I begged off with a migraine, but that’s not going to work every time. I don’t want to ruin my husband’s friendship with the man, so how do I handle this? — Need A Way Out
Dear Need Out: You don’t need to be chummy with this couple, but there’s no reason you cannot be civil once in a while for your husband’s sake. Don’t issue any invitations, but if they should suggest getting together, you might say “yes” every third time or so, and set up a date a week or two later at a restaurant or theater. You can plausibly say that your schedule is too packed to enjoy their company more often. Also suggest to your husband that he and his friend spend time together on their own. He shouldn’t feel their friendship must be arranged by their wives.
Dear Annie: You printed a letter from a nurse who complained that HIPAA regulations barred her from speaking to family members when an elderly patient asked them not to.
HIPAA is greatly misunderstood. When any person is a danger to themselves or others, family members listed as next-of-kin can be contacted to rectify such a situation. In the case of the elderly, one could also call the state program for Eldercare, usually under the auspices of the state Dept. of Health and Human Services. Someone will visit the elderly person and determine whether or not it is safe for him or her to live alone.
For more information, your readers can contact the local Area Agency on Aging or Eldercare Locator (eldercare.gov) at 1-800-677-1116, as well as the
American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging (www.healthinaging.org) at 1-800-563-4916. — S.D. Schutze, RN
Dear S.D. Schutze: Thanks for the clarification and resources. The problem with disclosing the medical information of older patients is not necessarily because they require help, but because they don’t always want their children involved in their health care decisions. When the parents are of sound mind, this is annoying, but not life-threatening. It’s in that gray area, where parents are beginning to show signs of slipping but are not doing anything dangerous, where problems arise.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611. To find out more about Annie’s Mailbox, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Published in The Messenger on 10.11.07