Q. I have been married for 20 years and have two teenage children. My mother was never married and lives like a 'hottie hottie'. Our family noticed that she was losing weight and thought she had diabetes only to find out that she is HIV positive. She confessed that she had unprotected sex with a few men. Now the men have deserted her. She is depressed.
She has been a good grandmother. She sometimes picks up the children after school, feeds them and keeps them until my husband and I finish work. We do not want the children or their friends to know, since it could bring disgrace to our family. I do not want to leave the children with her, but the children adore her. I do not want her to cook for them and I do not want the children to eat from her. She was fired from her part-time job because of her frequent illnesses. What should I do?
A. The first thing you have done correctly is to seek advice and help. Your problems are numerous, diverse and intricate.
Your mother's terminal illness is stressful on you, the family and also on her. She is HIV positive because of her lifestyle choices. This is having serious consequences for you, her and the children. It is causing anguish. In addition, the treatment of HIV can be a stress on her income, especially since she has been fired. I doubt she is entitled to fringe benefits from her workplace, but you should ascertain whether she was unfairly fired and entitled to compensation.
Still love her
First, you need to understand your feelings towards your mother. You need to tell your mother that you are disappointed with the turn of events but that you still love her and will help her during this difficult time. Assure her you will not desert her like those selfish men.
She might need a professional counsellor who can talk with her about her depression. She needs to get medical attention and follow the prescriptions and to be more conscious about her nutritional intake, etc.
You cannot control if persons find out about your mother's illness or speculate about what is wrong with her. However, she does have the right to keep her medical condition private. You need to tell her grandchildren about her terminal illness. They will need to be told that there is no danger in hugging or eating from her because she is HIV positive. There is no need to prevent them from visiting her. Cutting them off from her might make her more depressed. Ensure that no unkind comments are made by you, your husband or the children which can cause psychological damage.
One is not sure how the children will react and how it will affect them. However, ensure that your children understand that the disease is transmitted through sexual intercourse and needles etc, and not by shaking hands. Therefore, do not abandon your mother in this hour of need for emotional and financial support.