Agony advice

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Generic stock photo of a mother and daughter hugging. See PA Feature ADVICE Ask Fiona. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature ADVICE Ask Fiona. Generic stock photo of a mother and daughter hugging. See PA Feature ADVICE Ask Fiona. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature ADVICE Ask Fiona.


My father-in-law has lived on his own for nine years now, following the death of his wife after a short illness. We all thought he would struggle to live on his own, but he’s managed pretty well, even though he is now 79.

However, last month he fell while carrying some bags from a shop to his car. When he eventually got to the hospital (he didn’t want to go!) they found he’d fractured a hip and his wrist. Anyway, having made a good recovery, he’s due to leave hospital shortly.

I have been thinking for some time that he would eventually have to come and live with us, but when I suggested to my wife that now might be a good time, she point blank refused. I explained I would be happy to help look after him, but she is adamant she doesn’t want him living with us. I am surprised and a bit shocked by her reaction, especially as she hasn’t really said why she is against it.

She’s always been a sympathetic person, willing to help people when they have problems, so I really don’t understand this reaction to someone in her own family. Why is she being so hard on him? Should I try to persuade her? He lives nearby, but I am not sure he’s going to be able to cope on his own, at least not until he’s properly healed.

M. H.


Taking on the care of an ageing parent is an enormous challenge, especially if there are ill-health issues as well.

And while I am sure your offer to help is genuine, I suspect the main burden of care will still fall on your wife, as she is his daughter. It can be hard work and is not something to be taken on lightly.

That said, your wife’s reaction suggests there may be other issues going on here too, things about the relationship with her father that possibly pre-date your marriage to her. She seems unwilling to elaborate further on her reasons for not wanting her father to live with you, so I think you will just have to respect her wishes.

The other issue is, you have no idea if your father-in-law even wants to live with you. He seems to have made a good recovery, so it’s possible that he wants to keep his independence as long as he can and continue to live in his own home. He may need some extra help at home until he is fully over this fall, and the hospital should assess this.

If they think it’s appropriate, they should then arrange some free short-term care, usually up to six weeks, after which it will need to be paid for.

It’s important that this is put in place before he is discharged from hospital, so perhaps one way you can help is to be there to make sure your father-in-law gets the support he is entitled to. If he is discharged and care hasn’t been arranged, you’ll have to contact social services.

And once he’s at home, there’s nothing to stop you and your wife doing what you can to help. He lives nearby so would it be possible for one of you to pop in regularly to check on him, and perhaps do a bit of cooking or cleaning? He might also appreciate someone doing the shopping for him – the last thing he needs just now is another fall.


My father died last month, and while it wasn’t unexpected, it was still a shock to everyone, including my two children.

I never really got along with him; he was always the person who told me what I could and couldn’t do, and he carried on trying to do the same thing after I left home.

Consequently, we argued frequently and in recent years we had started to drift further apart.

We did keep in touch, though, and my children liked him a lot. It was one of the things I suppose that annoyed me most, that he could be so affectionate with my children in a way he’d never been with me. Anyway, he’s gone now, and I’ll admit to being a bit sad about it, but not overly so.

My children, however, are really upset and I don’t know how to handle it. They are seven and nine, so how do I explain why I am not crying, and they are? And how can I help them through this? My husband thinks we should just give them a bit of time to process what’s happened and they’ll eventually get over it. Is he right?

G. M.


It’s true that given time, most people, including children, move on from the initial grief of the death of someone they love. By age seven, most children will have an understanding that all people, including themselves, will die at some point, and that these people don’t come back.

However, what they won’t have is the life experience to cope with grief. Also, they may hang onto many unknowns, half-truths, or misinformation that they’ve heard about death, that can leave them feeling even more distressed and frightened. For these reasons, I don’t think you should just leave them your children to deal with this on their own.

They are likely to have many questions for a start. They may want to know why their grandfather died. They may want to know intricate details about what happens to a body after death. They may have questions about some form of existence after death. It might feel uncomfortable talking about issues like this, but it’s important that you be honest with them and give them the facts. This will help them better understand what has happened.

Cruse Bereavement Support ( has a useful section on children coping with grief, which includes some guidance on what phrases to use (or avoid) when talking about it. Perhaps the most important thing to do is encourage them to keep talking about their grandfather and the things they did together. That will create positive memories to help them through this.

Encourage them to talk about their feelings too. People experience grief in different ways and often over different timescales, children are no different. It’s therefore a good idea keep an eye on them. It may take some time for them to adjust to their grandfather’s death, and if it looks as if they are not coping, follow your instincts and don’t be afraid to seek professional help.

Finally, don’t be surprised if you, too, find there are times when you feel sad – perhaps grieving the relationship you didn’t have. Perhaps Cruse can be of help to you, too.


I work in a busy sales office with people coming and going all day. I am permanently office based, as are three others, one of whom has a really bad body odour problem. In fact, he stinks – all day and every day. At times it is so bad I just have to go outside for a few minutes to clear my head.

I’ve dropped a few hints about strange smells and opening more windows, but he’s ignored all of these. I also spoke to the sales manager, but she just laughed it off, saying there was nothing she could do.

I like the work but I’m not sure I can cope with much more of this – I am either going to leave or get really angry with him.

J. G.


Please don’t do anything drastic. Serious body odour problems in the workplace are no laughing matter and your sales manager should know better, frankly. They can have a significant impact on relationships between colleagues, as you’ve found, and can affect staff morale and productivity too.

Talking with someone about a personal issue like this has the potential to become not only confrontational, but perhaps discriminatory as well. For these reasons, I think you should speak to your HR or personnel manager.


I am single mum and have brought up two children, the youngest of whom is now at university. My husband died 15 years ago and in that time, I haven’t had a single date.

I’ll admit I have been lonely at times, but to get through this, I have concentred on my job and bringing up my children.

Now that they’re getting on with their lives, I wonder if I should start looking for another relationship. My daughter thinks it’s a good idea, but the problem is I’m 47 and a bit overweight. Have I left it too late to find happiness again?

G. T.


It’s never too late – a cliché I know, but it’s not wrong. I have friends who have married again in their 60s, 70s and one couple in their 80s – and some of them were carrying a little excess weight too.

I suspect you are just creating obstacles to getting out and about again because loneliness, while depressing, is something you’re familiar with. It probably feels safer than the uncertainty of a new relationship.

Yes, it might seem scary, but nothing ventured, nothing gained (sorry – can’t resist the cliches). So please stay positive and start looking to meet new friends and potential partners. You could do this through dating agencies, clubs, societies, or perhaps starting a course in something you enjoy. The important thing is to just do it.

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