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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My father-in-law is retired with a good pension. He is the primary caregiver for his wife, who is paralyzed on one side and unable to carry on a conversation. She is getting worse and is practically confined to bed. He refuses outside help and is very controlling.

While she was in the rehab center shortly after her accident, she was progressing well. She was even up on parallel bars. The only thing she does now is feed herself. She's incontinent and totally dependent.

No one in the family is willing to step in on her behalf to get the proper care she deserves. They are all afraid of her husband, and say it is up to him. It is painful for me to watch this happening. I am partially disabled myself and unable to do what I used to. How -- and where -- could I find resources to give this woman some quality of life? She's only 64. -- CONCERNED IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR CONCERNED: You are a caring relative who has raised an interesting, but delicate, question. From your description, both your father-in-law and his wife could use some assistance.

One way to go about it without causing World War III would be for you and your wife to contact their family physician and explain what's going on. Ask for a referral to a social worker or home health-care agency that can visit her and evaluate the care she is receiving.

Considering the level of care his wife requires, your father-in-law may be overwhelmed as the primary caregiver. He needs help, too, but his pride may be getting in the way. Perhaps the doctor can recommend that he attend a caregiver support group where he can learn firsthand what other caregivers do in similar situations. It is vital that he receive emotional support. If the doctor can't help, the social services office at your local hospital can provide a referral.

DEAR ABBY: The letter you printed regarding the wedding lottery invitation reminded me of the telephone call I received from the mother of the groom.

She informed me there was to be no shower for the bride. The bride and her mother were going shopping for the things the bride would need for her new home. Every item was to be gift-wrapped individually, and the name of the "donor" was to be written on each package.

Although I had already given the couple a generous engagement gift, I was "invited" to send a check to pay for "my" shower gift.

Incredulous, and thinking I had misunderstood, I asked the woman to repeat the request. Then I said a quiet goodbye. -- NO DUMMY IN N.Y.C.

DEAR NO DUMMY: Just when I think I have seen everything, along comes another "believe it or not" letter. You weren't being invited to a shower; you were being solicited for a fund-raiser. Therefore, you were within your rights to handle it as you would any other telemarketing call.

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