Ask Amy: Advice for the Real World

Dear Amy: I live in a condo building that was previously inhabited by many elderly people who have since either passed on, moved to retirement homes, or are in nursing facilities.

My neighbor has lived here longer than I have and makes a daily habit of visiting the former residents. This includes going to nursing and dementia care facilities.

This strikes me as odd. I'm in my 60s and, frankly, I don't know of anyone who visits the elderly and infirm like this. She sometimes comments on their family situations.

Although I do not have any solid evidence of mistreatment of these people or finagling to get their funds, I have a creepy feeling about it.

My question is, if I ever see evidence that points to some wrongdoing, who do I contact? I don't personally know these people or their families.

— Feeling the Creepiness

Dear Feeling: In my world, this sort of behavior is called, "friendship." And friendships, or neighborliness doesn't necessarily stop when people move away.

It does not strike me as odd to visit elderly or infirm people. It strikes me only as kind, and it is something that some people do not only because they are kind, but because they genuinely like being with older people.

However, I want to add a caveat, and it is an important one. Whenever it concerns vulnerable people, such as children or the infirm, it is important to follow your own instincts. If you sincerely believe this feeling is justified (and certainly if you encounter any actual evidence of wrongdoing), you should definitely act on it.

You can do an internet search for "adult protective services" in your area, and share your concerns with a case worker. Information on elder abuse (and referral to reporting resources) is also available from the National Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging. Call toll-free (800) 677-1116.

Dear Amy: Several years ago, my husband's wealthy cousin needed some recuperation and care after a major surgery. We invited him to stay at our ranch home (no stairs). He spent a lot of time on our deck; we served him meals and provided him with nursing care.

This year he was between the sale of his old home and purchase of a new one, and he needed a place to stay for six weeks. Again, we provided him with all meals, his own room and bathroom.

After about two weeks we decided to grab a bite at a local eatery after work. We asked if he wanted to come with us, and he agreed.

After a nice meal (complete with wine), the bill came. We were shocked when he stuck his hands in his pockets, not even offering to pay for his own dinner or the tip.

How can we stand to be near him at family functions, knowing how he took advantage of our hospitality and knowing how cheap he is?

— Out of Answers

Dear Out of Answers: People can really only take advantage of you if you let them. In this case, your generosity to this cousin during his illness was met with another request and further generosity.

You could call him out on his behavior, while taking responsibility for your own. You and your husband should find a way to express: "Dear cousin, we have twice given you shelter, food and comfort care when you needed it. We were happy to do it. But you've never reciprocated or expressed gratitude for our generosity. We're giving you a heads-up that the next time you need assistance, you're going to have to find it elsewhere."

That awkward feeling at family gatherings, should be his.

Dear Amy: I could not believe your idiotic reaction to "There's No Place Like (the Beach) Home," regarding the sister who had bought the family's vacation house and wanted to charge her adult siblings per night rent for their summer stay. Do you have any idea of how expensive it is to own a vacation house? Why should these siblings expect to freeload for their summer vacation?

— Disgusted

Dear Disgusted: The sister already owns and maintains the house as a second home. It is no more expensive to have guests there than not, certainly when these guests are family members who are bringing food and doing maintenance work around the place during their short stay.

However, the sister owns the house and is completely within her rights to charge rent, and her family can either take it or leave it, which was the essence of my advice.

Contact Amy Dickinson at: askamy@amydickinson.com