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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are both seniors, and he just recovered from a near tragedy. I am sure it could happen to anyone who takes more than one prescription medication.

My husband was slowly deteriorating to the point of being unable to take care of himself. He was less and less interested in anything; his hands trembled; he couldn't write his name or drive a car; he had difficulty putting two words together; he couldn't remember anything; and his legs were very weak. In short, he was ready for a nursing home.

He was taking 11 different medications several times a day. As his caregiver and the dispenser of his medication, it occurred to me that the drugs could be part of the problem.

I wrote his doctor describing his symptoms and listing all of his prescriptions. Without seeing him, the doctor immediately eliminated two of them and reduced the dosage of others. Within two weeks, my husband's symptoms began disappearing. All of them are gone now, except for the weakness in his legs. He's doing exercises to strengthen them.

Abby, what happens to people who have no reliable caregiver or mentor? Who reads the list of "possible side effects"? I am sure there are people in nursing homes being given the same medications that put them there. Please remind your older readers not to accept symptoms as "just being part of growing old." -- LEE IN WALNUT CREEK, CALIF.

DEAR LEE: People who have no reliable caregiver or mentor to intercede for them when they start slipping are at a dangerous disadvantage. Your letter is a powerful reminder that people who are having their annual physical examinations should bring with them a list of every medication, vitamin and over-the-counter drug and herb they are taking. The effects can be cumulative and debilitating, and they should be regularly reviewed by a physician.

DEAR ABBY: In a recent column, I think you dropped the ball when you commented on the black man who won a raffle and was first denied but then awarded the Cadillac he won fair and square.

You said something to the effect that because of the time and locale (North Carolina), it was revolutionary that justice prevailed.

I know racism exists everywhere, but I contend that because the man's injustice was a mistake both made AND rectified without government intervention or a media crusade, that speaks volumes about our great state. There have always been more good people than bad, regardless of the times. The proof is in that story.

Abby, I read you every day, and with very few exceptions, find you witty, wonderful and wise. -- CARL BROW, PROUD TO BE FROM NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR CARL: You are correct that the incident happened long ago, and it was remedied by people who believed in justice for all.

However, it wasn't until the civil rights movement of the '60s that equal rights were finally realized for every American. While many good people on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line may have wanted to correct the injustices that prevailed before then, ending them took a tremendous struggle.

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