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Nancy Ryburn


Making plan for mom with Alzheimer’s should start with conversation

Q. I think my mother, who is in her late 70s, is showing signs of Alzheimer’s. She is increasingly forgetful, and has become negative and nasty. She was never like this. My two brothers think that there is nothing wrong with her because they only visit once or twice a month and then stay for an hour or two. I’m with her on an almost daily basis. How can I convince them that she has a problem that we need to address?

End-of-life talks tough, but necessary

Q. I am in my late 70s. Although I have no life-threatening illnesses, I want to talk to my children about my end-of-life wishes. When they were here over the holidays, they absolutely refused to talk about it. They will be back in February, and I am determined to have the conversation. Please give me some advice on how to approach 40-year-olds who won’t have a discussion.

Opiod addicts face difficult path to recovery

Q. Our daughter, who is in her late 40s, has become addicted to pain medication. She was taking it as prescribed for injuries received in a car accident, and now she is taking eight or nine pills a day. Could you please explain the dangers of these medications so that she and others will understand the problems of pain pill addiction?

Winter doesn’t have to make you S.A.D.

Q. Starting in January each year, I get very depressed. I think I may have a low-level depression, but I deal with it effectively other times. In the winter, however, I don’t want to go to work, do things with friends or get out of bed. Why does this keep happening and what can I do about it?

Codependent? It doesn’t have to continue

Q. My husband barks at me rather than speaks; he criticizes my cooking, my clothes and just about everything I do. I am so unhappy, but afraid of the financial problems I may have if I leave since I’m in my 50s and have had little work experience. He tells me that I’m too sensitive, but I feel that he is a bully. Is this co-dependency and why do so many people fall victim to it?

Husband’s drinking likely problematic

Q. My husband’s doctor told him to slow down on his drinking. He has slowed down, but he still drinks too much. Over the holidays he had at least three glasses of wine most nights. Some nights, he would consume an entire bottle. Then he would go a couple of days without drinking. He says that he’s not dependent on alcohol, so he doesn’t have a problem. I say he does. What is your opinion?

Gay man shouldn’t have to choose between husband, sister

Q. I am a 45-year-old gay man who moved away from home about 20 years ago. Recently, I married my partner of 15 years. I have always visited my sister, with my partner, for a week after the new year. She told me that if I brought my “husband” this year neither of us would be welcome. She suggested that I come alone and not mention my marital status. I’m really torn. I love my partner, but my sister and her children are the only family I have. Suggestion?

Grief and the holidays: only do what feels right

Q. I’ve had several close friends and family members die within the last couple of months. I have no desire to celebrate the holidays. My children live out of state, and I don’t even want to see them. I know I am grieving, but I want to put up a good front for the sake of my grandchildren. What should I do?

Riding out panic attacks this holiday shopping season

Q. During this holiday season every time I go into a crowded store, I get hot, sweaty, and my heart starts pounding. I love to go Christmas shopping, but now I begin to panic every time I enter a store. I think these are panic attacks, but I’ve not had them since high school, and I’m frightened. What can I do to stop this so that it doesn’t ruin my holiday fun?

Tips for fighting holiday depression

Q. I have a tendency to be depressed, but I get even more depressed as soon as Thanksgiving is over and people start the Christmas holidays. Everyone always seems so happy except me. I’m alone, and it seems that even my family forgets that I exist. Can you give me some advice from a psychologist’s perspective? I’ve read the silly magazine suggestions.

Woman’s pain pill addiction could be deadly, needs treatment

Q. We are going to visit my parents for a week over Thanksgiving. The only problem is that my wife is addicted to pain medication. Her behavior is so strange that I’m certain my parents will notice and be horrified. I’ve tried to talk to her about addiction, but she says I’m over-reacting. Could you please explain the dangers of pain medication? She won’t listen to me.

Grief comes in stages

Q. I was the primary caregiver for my husband who died over three years ago, but I’m still mourning his loss all of the time. I think about him constantly, cry often, actually think I see him and dream about him. My children think I’m going crazy. They have encouraged me to get out and travel, but I don’t want to do anything. I guess I think I’m going crazy, too. What is wrong with me that I can’t let go of my grief?

Symptoms after car wreck could be PTSD

Q. I was in a serious car accident in November of last year. For a few months I seemed OK, but as the days began to get shorter this year, I have become increasingly frightened to drive. I’m staying home more, and I can’t drive on the expressway, which means I can’t drive to see my grandchildren. What can I do?

Changes in son’s behavior could be schizophrenia

Q. My 22-year-old son has become very strange in the past two years. He will sit for hours doing nothing or he will become highly agitated. His behavior is causing serious problems in all aspects of his life. We took him to a counselor who found him to be normal and charming. When his condition worsened, we took him to a psychiatrist, who said he was likely schizophrenic, but that he needed testing. Our son refused to go back, and he won’t take medication. Can you help us understand this?

Workplace bullying big issue, to be handled with care

Q. I think I’m being bullied at work for a problem I can’t control. I have to drop off my daughter at daycare and I sometimes run five or 10 minutes late. I’ve offered to work through lunch or stay extra time after work. There is no one else who can take my daughter. My boss is making comments about me behind my back, and other people in the office are ignoring me. I dread going to work. What can I do? Do I complain to management that I’m being bullied?

Alcohol can have more adverse effects for seniors

Q. I am a 67 year-old woman who has recently retired and I’m not in the best of health. My husband is gone all of the time, especially during hunting season. Instead of having a glass of wine at night, I’ve started to have three or four. I’m concerned that I could be developing an alcohol problem, but my friends say I’m over-reacting. What is your opinion?

Stopping smoking starts with a plan

Q. I have been smoking for almost 30 years, and I’d like to quit. Every time I try, I get upset, cry and am so irritable that no one wants to be around me. Now, my daughter says that she doesn’t want to leave my grandson with me anymore because I smoke in the house and his clothes smell like smoke when she picks him up. I want to quit, but now I feel like I’m being held hostage. What can I do short term to solve this problem?

Help teen maintain healthy weight by setting example

Q. My 15-year-old daughter is overweight. I don’t want to dwell on her weight because I am fearful that she will develop an eating disorder. She tells me that there are several girls in her school who are anorexic or bulimic. Is there a way I can get her to manage her weight problem without her becoming defensive or developing a disorder? I’ve noticed that she is spending more time in her room.

Xanax abuse can be addictive, deadly

Q. My doctor prescribed Xanax for me a few years ago for my panic attacks. I see two different doctors to get the drug since I run out. I only take three or four a day, but I’ve read that it can be dangerous, and it may be causing me to be forgetful. Please give me more information.

Burning out? Slow it down

Q. I am so tired of working. I am in my 60s, and I’ve had a job since I was 16. I like the job and the people, but I’m so worn out at the end of the week that I have no time for myself or my family. My job is stressful, demanding and I often have to bring work home. When I’m away from work, I just sit in front of the television. What can I do?

First step to anger management: changing behavior

Q. I have an anger management problem. I got out of control because our 6-year old broke two of her toys. Later I felt horrible. My family has become frightened of me because they think my anger will eventually get so out of control that I will hurt them. What can I do to stop the anger? I was raised in a yelling and screaming household.

Helping your child with bullies

Q. My 14-year-old-daughter was bullied all of last year. She lets everyone say things about her and doesn’t take up for herself. I had to push her out the door the first day of school. I am so afraid that the bullying will start again, and she refuses to talk about it. Can you give her some suggestions for dealing with bullies?

Conflicted feelings natural when children leave home

Q. Recently, my husband and I dropped our youngest child at college several hundred miles away. I have felt so depressed since then. We were actively involved in our son’s sports teams and with his friends for the past five years. My husband seems OK, but I feel lost. Please offer some tips for surviving the next few months.

Husband takes anger too far

Q. My husband has an anger management problem but he refuses to admit it. Recently, he beat up our oldest son and threatened our teenage daughter. They want little to do with him now. I just keep my mouth shut, but I can’t see going on like this forever. If I mention that he needs help, he becomes belligerent. What makes him this way? I have enough money to leave, but I’m frightened to do so.

Grief hits everyone differently

Q. A close family member recently died, and I’m devastated. She was so young, and I keep thinking about it. However, I have yet to cry. People have been critical that I’m able to function, and that only seems to make me feel worse. Please give me some advice on coping with grief.