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home : columns : dear harriette August 9, 2020

5/25/2020 8:07:00 AM
Mother deteriorating during quarantine

DEAR HARRIETTE: My mom lives in a retirement community, and she has been quarantined for more than two months now. She can't come out of her tiny apartment for any reason. They drop off food packages to her each day and pick up the trash every week. We hired an attendant to organize her meds and to give her a shower, so there is one person who puts her eyes on my mom. But she is deteriorating. When we talk on FaceTime, we can see that she's not doing well. She no longer puts on street clothes. She doesn't fix her hair or put on makeup. I am so worried that if we aren't allowed to see her soon, she will perish. But the community is strict, and they will not allow my family to enter the building. What can I do? -- Saving Mom

DEAR SAVING MOM: Contact her doctor and ask for advice. In most cases, medical professionals are saying that it's safer to keep elders sequestered -- even though they are bored during this period -- because they are isolated from the virus. That said, the risk of depression due to extended social isolation is real. Schedule an in-person doctor's visit so she can get checked both physically and mentally. If you can take her, that would be one time you can see each other.

Talk to the attendant you've hired. If possible, arrange for that person to stay a little longer each day and keep your mother company. Have that person get your mother to tell stories and reminisce. Do the same when you call your mother. Ask her stories that will jog her memory about her life. For more ideas, go to

DEAR HARRIETTE: I'm worried that my best friend is going to be homeless soon. She lost her job at the beginning of the pandemic, but she wasn't making much money and had very little savings. She did get the stimulus check, but that only bought a few groceries one single time. Right now, she is safe because the governor has suspended evictions, but what happens this summer?

I am wondering if I should invite her to come and stay with me. I have a small house with very little room, but it would put a roof over her head. Obviously, that isn't ideal, but I can't watch my friend be put out on the street. If I do bring her into my home, I feel like I have to establish house rules. She and I live very differently. I don't want to strain our friendship or drive us crazy. What do you think? -- Rescuing a Friend

DEAR RESCUING A FRIEND: Now is the time to be generous with our loved ones. If you can bring your best friend in, that would be a blessing. Talk to her about the idea. Be honest: You know it won't be easy, but she is welcome. If she wants to come, talk about how you run your home and what your expectations of her would be. Agree that you will talk through any questions or issues as they arise. Establish a month down the line when you will revisit how long she will stay.

Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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