DEAR ANNIE: My mother has never been a big eater, but in the past year, she seems to have developed a serious eating disorder. At age 62, she skips meals regularly and has shrunk to a bony 90 pounds. Her skin is sagging, her hair is thinning, and she is very irritable.
I think it's ridiculous that a woman in her 60s is behaving like a teenage girl. I am her only daughter and apparently the only one in the family who realizes what a big deal this is. My dad and brothers think she's just a health freak.
I have cut back on my visits because I don't want my young daughters to be exposed to such a terrible female role model when they already struggle with their own body image issues. I'm also worried that there will be serious health consequences if Mom doesn't start eating normally. What should I do? -- Worried and Annoyed
DEAR WORRIED: Please try to be less annoyed. Your mother sounds anorexic. While you are right that anorexia is more common in teenage girls, it can affect both men and women of any age. This is a mental health problem. Mom's self-worth is tied to how thin she is, and she doesn't recognize that she's in serious trouble.
Never miss a local story.
You cannot force Mom to seek help, but you can get information and suggestions on how to approach her by contacting the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (anad.org) and the National Eating Disorders Association (nationaleatingdisorders.org).
DEAR ANNIE: I read the letter from "Frantic Mom," who desperately wanted help for her middle-aged son who is addicted to drugs and in need of psychiatric help. She said her late husband was a veteran and asked whether she was eligible for benefits.
You recommend several organizations, including the VA. Please tell her to also check with her local VA hospital and the Disabled American Veterans. Both of these organizations have highly trained service officers to help veterans and their families obtain the benefits to which they are entitled. If she has trouble, an officer from any local Veterans of Foreign Wars post should be able to connect her to the right people.
I hope this helps. -- Kathleen Blake, Past Erie County President, Ladies Auxiliary to the VFW
DEAR KATHLEEN BLAKE: We appreciate the additional suggestion and hope that "Frantic Mom" will look into all avenues of assistance. We would also like to take this opportunity to send our veterans our best wishes on this Veterans Day. Thank you so much for your service.
To write to Annie's Mailbox, send to c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.