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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Were you daydreaming when you wrote your answer to "No Help" -- the 72-year-old widow who couldn't get her daughter, her two sons or her three grandchildren to take care of her house?

Tell her to run, not walk, to the telephone and call a real-estate agent to sell her house. She can use the money to buy a lovely condo or rent an apartment. Then there will be no lawn to mow, no shrubs to trim, nothing to paint -- and her children won't have to wind up HATING her because she's such a burden. She might even have enough money to be able to travel. Sign me ... BEEN THERE, AND GLAD I'VE GONE AND DONE IT, EDINA, MINN.

DEAR BEEN THERE: That letter -- and my answer -- struck a nerve with a number of readers who wasted no time in telling me about it. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: How about a reality check? You missed the first part of the 72-year-old widow's letter. The part she didn't write:

Mom: "Son, when are you going to cut my grass? It's almost 6 feet high."

Son: "Mom, I have to work Saturday, Junior has soccer practice, and your granddaughter has dance in the evening. Besides -- you need to sell that house; you can't take care of it"

Mom: "Oh, I couldn't do that. It holds so many memories," blah, blah, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

Abby, she has no right to expect her kids to take care of her house. Her children aren't ignoring her. They take her out to dinner and buy her whatever she needs. She's not getting the message. She needs to sell the house and move into something she can handle. Withhold my name, please. -- WEST COLUMBIA, S.C.

DEAR WEST COLUMBIA: I'm not sure that the solution is as cut-and-dried as you state. Some families still take care of elderly family members and are grateful to have the opportunity to do so, but there are other options for seniors who wish to remain in familiar surroundings, as another reader wrote to inform me. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am a caregiver for my elderly in-laws, and the letter from "No Help," which appeared in your column, hit close to home. I, too, was in need of resources to assist with their care and the maintenance on their home.

The local area agency on aging is the best resource for the elderly in need of all kinds of assistance. They can provide literature and lists of services and volunteers to help with housework, home maintenance, transportation, companionship, meals and many other services too numerous to list in this letter. Some services are provided on a sliding scale if there is a financial need. -- A CAREGIVER IN VALLEJO, CALIF.

DEAR CAREGIVER: Thank you for making this helpful suggestion, one I know will be of interest to many readers. If the responses to "Needs Help" that crossed my desk are a fair sample, emotions are running high on this subject.

Another reader, Ed Park of Bend, Ore., wrote that he works with the National Federation of Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, a national group specifically designed to provide help for seniors or people with disabilities. Write to them at 368 Broadway, Suite 103, Kingston, N.Y. 12401; e-mail them at NFIVC@aol.com, or visit their Web page: www.nfivc.org.

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