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DEAR ABBY: My mother-in-law was diagnosed with dementia more than a year ago. She lives alone and can no longer do anything for herself. She can no longer climb stairs, which means she can't get to her bed, shower or do laundry, and it takes her hours to dress herself. She also needs help getting and remembering to take her medications.

Because Mom can't drive, she can't get to the store, the bank or anywhere else unless one of her kids takes her. She does nothing all day but watch TV and eat sweets.

When do her kids stop treating her like a toddler and start treating her with dignity? She clearly needs assistance, whether it's a couple of days a week of companionship or an assisted-living center. She doesn't want to go, but when is it time to do what's best for her and stop listening to what she says she wants? Her kids are afraid to make her mad, so this poor woman is withering away in her two-story home -- lonely, smelly, sad and depressed.

I would move her into our home if we had a place for her, but we don't. What can be done for an elderly person who obviously can't take care of herself, but "fakes" it so her kids won't put her "in a home"? -- HEARTBROKEN DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

DEAR HEARTBROKEN: Please accept my sympathy. Your letter is timely, because September marks the inauguration of World Alzheimer's Month.

Accepting the realities of dementia or Alzheimer's disease can be difficult for families, especially when the person with the disease has lost the ability to safely live alone or make sound decisions.

When this happens, families must take steps to ensure that their loved one is safe and healthy. This may involve bringing care into the home or exploring other living options. Fortunately, most communities offer resources that can help, including home-delivered meal programs, in-home care, assisted-living and residential memory care.

Because you are rightfully concerned about your mother-in-law's well-being, call a family meeting and discuss care options. The Alzheimer's Association has a consultation program that helps families navigate through these complex situations. It offers emotional support, needs assessment and information about local resources. To speak with a care consultant, call the Alzheimer's Association's toll-free, 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900.

DEAR ABBY: I have been with my love for more than five years. Our lives have not been easy, but whose has? God decided to bless us with a little one while we were still too young, but we work hard to provide the best for our blessing.

Somewhere down the road the romance disappeared. I often wonder if he despises me for getting pregnant or for keeping our son. My love had big plans and still does, but he seems miserable. I know I can't force him to make the effort to change his own life and pursue his dreams.

I miss my friend, the person who wanted to be near me, hold my hand and hold me tight. Despite all my attempts to talk, nothing changes. Is it over? -- ROMANTICIZING ROMANCE IN DALLAS

DEAR R.R.: As the saying goes, "It isn't over 'til it's over." The man you love may be unhappy that his life took an unexpected turn, but he's still with you and that says a lot. Because he won't talk out his feelings with you and appears to have withdrawn, remind him that you love him, want him to be happy and encoutrage him to talk to a licensed therapist to help him get his future back on track. It will be money and time well spent.

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