Q. I am a disabled man with a good brain and an independent bent. However, I need help to wash and dress, morning and night. My private carer is excellent in every way but one. He’s experienced, willing, caring, utterly reliable and trustworthy — but he’s also bossy and controlling. He insists on staying for coffee with me, lingers longer than he needs to, passes comment on my life and wants to be my close friend. I find this oppressive. How can I tactfully manage it?
— Name and address withheld
A. Solve this problem by adding to your carer’s workload. Why not adopt, from a rescue home, a three-legged, ten-year-old labrador or similar, which will also need a bit of attention and exercise? This will at least distract your carer. More pertinently, it will allow your carer to channel his admiration and affection for you through a disabled canine proxy.
Q. A friend has introduced us to a new couple who live very near us, and we now see a lot of them. The problem is that although we adore them both, one of them often repeats stories we’ve already heard at least once before. I would never like to cut anyone off in the middle of a jolly anecdote, especially a new friend, but when you’ve heard it before, it all starts to feel a bit impersonal because you wonder why he didn’t remember your previous reaction. What would you suggest?
A. You can successfully retrain the friend using the following method. Tell him one of your own anecdotes, this time, let’s say, one about hang gliding. Then, next time you see him, at a relevant moment, say: ‘Of course I’ve told you the story about the hang-gliding incident.’ When he agrees that you have indeed told it, say: ‘Oh well, I won’t repeat it then. I’ve got a tendency to tell people the same anecdotes again and again. The way I stop myself doing it is to preface each anecdote with, “Of course I’ve told you the anecdote about” and if they say “no”, I carry on but if they say “yes”, I stop.’ With any luck your friend will start to follow your example.
Q. I went to the funeral of someone I saw a lot of in my youth. The ‘after party’ was at his house and was well attended, but I knew few people there. I was one of the last to leave and went to sign a condolence book in which I saw many names I recognised. I would have loved to catch up with these people but I simply didn’t recognise their grizzled faces 40 years on. What would you have done?
A. It would have been a good idea to stand next to the book of condolences and take it upon yourself to invite people to sign it as they arrived even if they left the ‘comments’ till later. The family would have been grateful for your vigilance and you could then have greeted warmly those whose signatures you recognised.