Q. I have a close friend who went through years of fertility treatments in order to have her kids.
She and her partner are now drowning under a mountain of debt. She complains about money all the time, especially because raising kids is expensive.
She recently told me that they are looking into filing for bankruptcy because of all the fertility-related debt.
She and her partner took on this debt willingly, and it seems wrong to me that they should be able to not pay it off. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on treatments.
I feel terrible for the way that I am judging her and her choices. I know that fertility treatments are very expensive. On the other hand, other people in the same boat choose not to go into debt that they can’t recover from.
What are your thoughts?
A. This couple’s financial situation is likely very complicated, and so is bankruptcy. It is less a moral decision than a legal one, for people who have no hope of paying off their creditors.
Bankruptcy does not completely absolve people of paying toward their debts. It is not a cure-all, and doesn’t offer a completely blank slate. The couple may lose their home, or other assets, and they will likely have to offer payments toward creditors through a trustee. Their credit will be affected for several years.
If you are really trying to be a good friend, you should urge your friend to do all of her research and to — quite simply — make the best choice for her family. Relieving themselves of the constant drumbeat of dodging their creditors, simplifying their financial life, and basically trying to take charge of their situation might be best for them.
Now that these two are parents, all of their decisions should be pointed toward their family’s well-being, and you should be as supportive and as nonjudgmental as possible.
Q. My 95-year-old father is in an adult-care facility. I try to visit Dad every day, but I find that these visits are difficult for me.
My father isn’t very lucid or communicative. The “conversation,” if it can be called that, is basically one-sided.
I find that I run out of things to say and feel awkward.
I imagine that I am not alone among your readers who visit elderly or sick family members or friends who don’t talk much.
Can you suggest any strategies and topics that I can use? I really want to engage him because I think it helps him mentally and physically.
A. I’ve noticed that sometimes when loved ones visit with family members in facilities, they will sometimes fill the time through engaging with the staff, rather than their family member. This is understandable, if your loved one isn’t able to communicate effectively, or when you are unsure of their comprehension. But rather than conducting what feels like a monologue, reading to your father might make it easier for you to engage with him.
Many people report that reading my column (or other advice columns) aloud can help them to connect, because they can read the question and then ask, “How would you answer this question?” The questions tend to be short and the issues are engaging and human-scaled.
You could also read a chapter book from your father’s youth — or your own — that you suspect he might remember and/or enjoy. Reading a chapter each day might help both of you to stay more engaged, and will also give you something to look forward to — aside from seeing each other.
Also during visits, play music from the old days, and bring photos or picture books to look at together.
At the end of my mother’s life, my sisters and I watched favorite movies with her, and we read aloud from some of her favorite novels. (And, naturally, I shared some readers’ questions with her.)
I’m sure readers and caregivers will offer suggestions.
Q. Regarding questions based on DNA test results, no test or process is 100 percent reliable, no matter how diligent and reliable the company.
I’d suggest that anyone who receives results indicating shocking or completely unexpected results should have the test repeated, preferably by a different company.
There may have been an error in the testing process or sample.
My guess is that the odds are slim that this happens, but it would be best to be sure before letting it affect family relationships.
A. Great advice.Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.