Ask Ellie: Unvaccinated adult child putting elderly parents at risk

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: My sibling lives at our parents’ home with their partner and their family. Recently, one of my parents said that my sibling and their partner have indicated that they won’t be getting the COVID vaccine, contrary to my parents’ wishes.

My parents are both high-risk, given their ages and medical conditions. Whereas my sibling said they don’t need the vaccine because they’re “healthy,” their partner’s views on vaccines have evolved from “hesitancy” to “conspiracy theories.”

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I don’t have patience to engage in conversations that entertain conspiracy theories, selfishness, or not using the critical-thinking capacities that come with being educated.

I’ve not found a receptive audience in them, during discussions about the evidence/research demonstrating that the risks of vaccines are significantly smaller than the health complications from contracting COVID.

While I don’t want family drama, I’ve told my parents that I expect my sibling to abide by their expectations while they live under their roof. I’m unsure if my parents will be as forceful with these expectations as I’m willing to be, if I must have this discussion.

Do you have any advice?

Frustrated in Ontario

It’s your parents’ home at the centre of this debate, and it’s their concerns regarding their own vulnerability that matter. Talk to your parents openly about your concerns instead of about your attitude to conspiracy theories. Ultimately, the final decision about how to handle this divide, is theirs.

Your efforts to help your parents make their own decision can involve asking questions for them to consider: e.g. How closely are they all living together? Is there decent ventilation, do they gather at one table for meals, cook together in a small kitchen, have visitors to the house?

Even a few yes answers can be worrisome, especially when the lockdown ends and gathering places like malls, restaurants, etc. open up.

Your parents have the right as homeowners to tell this family that they either get vaccinated or live elsewhere (unless your sibling shared equally in the house purchase or contributes equally to the household expenses).

Meanwhile, the couple do have a legal right to refuse getting vaccinated. Your own attitude on this doesn’t matter, except with regard to realistic fears regarding your parents’ health.

The only stand you have is on that, and also on being clear with your sibling and partner that, unvaccinated, they’d be more likely to risk exposing COVID-19 or its harsher variants to an older, vulnerable couple.

Of course, there’s a financial issue if your parents want them to be vaccinated or move out. But the option should be considered. Otherwise, modifications should be made to the house, and everyone’s schedules/behaviours adjusted toward the goal of keeping your parents safe in their own home.

Feedback regarding the woman whose dating profile noted that she was looking for a “pal,” and then a man she met in person grabbed and forcibly kissed her (May 20):

Reader 1 – Perhaps a dating app isn’t the right place for her to be searching. A dating app is for one thing… dating.

If she’s not looking for that and only wants a pal, she needs to remove herself from that website. I suspect most people looking at her profile would interpret “pal” as someone who wants friendship as well as romance, but clearly, she does not want both.

She needs to find friends elsewhere and get off the app so she doesn’t get hurt and also so that she doesn’t hurt others.

Reader 2 – The behaviour that the letter-writer described is sexual assault. While older generations may not perceive it as such, that doesn’t make it any less of an act of aggression. This woman is right to feel violated by this man, not just because it happened during COVID, but because he asserted what he wanted without her consent.

It doesn’t mean that she can’t date online, or that she has poor judgement or bad instincts or is at fault in any way for his choice to take away her agency. He’s the one who shouldn’t be dating online.

This behaviour is a cultural attitude left over from when we taught men to assert themselves over women, regardless of how they may communicate a lack of interest, be it in body language or verbal statements. It’s time to start calling this kind of entitled and predatory behaviour what it is: sexual assault.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Medical/science experts believe vaccinations are the most effective way of keeping people who are in frequent/close contact safe from COVID-19.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca.

Follow @ellieadvice.

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