DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been faced with the harrowing decision of taking my great-uncle off of life support. He has no other living and willing relatives to take care of him, so I am essentially making this decision on my own. Nobody has taken any interest in either direction, but there is a slim chance of him making it out of his coma. He is 92 already, and I have no idea what I want to do.
I do not want to kill him, but I would feel incredibly guilty keeping him alive if all he wants to do is die. Should I force family to get involved so I don't bear the brunt of this decision alone? -- All Alone, Dallas
DEAR ALL ALONE: First, be clear about what your great-uncle's desires are. Did he tell you he is ready to die? If you know this for a fact, then you already know what you should do because he has asked you to take care of him.
You also need to be clear that you will not be killing your uncle if you take him off life support. Artificially keeping someone alive via a machine is an amazing option in the world of modern medicine, but it is an unnatural reality. Also, sometimes people do regain consciousness when they are in a coma and life support is removed.
Talk to your great-uncle's doctors to learn what they believe his prognosis will be. Then definitely speak to your family members to let them know what the doctors have said. While they may not be willing to make a decision, they should be willing to listen to whatever decision you have made.
Do yourself a favor and find out if your great-uncle has a will and whether his papers are in order. It appears your next steps will be handling his affairs upon his eventual passing. That takes a lot of effort and can be emotionally draining. Good luck.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a 77-year-old woman who is losing her mobility. I walk with a cane now, and I feel terrible for whoever has to walk alongside me because I remember how frustrated I would get with slow walkers when I was younger.
I want to keep up with my grandchildren and still be seen as the fun grandma. My son tells me if I get a mobility scooter it will be the death of my ability to walk since I won't be doing much of it. Should I take this next step, or will I be losing too much independence by not exercising my legs anymore? -- Hot Wheels, Atlanta
DEAR HOT WHEELS: Talk to your doctor about recommendations for mobility. You may want to get physical therapy to strengthen your body. The reality, though, is that many older people move more slowly than their grandchildren. You must figure out a pace with your family that works for everyone. Choose activities that are fun but not super active. You may also want to use a wheelchair or scooter only for particular activities, like visiting a museum, walking in the park or other things that require prolonged walking. Limited use shouldn't weaken your body.
(Harriette Cole is a life stylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)