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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was disturbed to read the letter from "Exhausted and Angry," who is single-handedly raising her two children, working a 40-hour week, caring for her bedridden mother, and is now faced with demands to care for her obnoxious "Aunt Stella."

For nearly 15 years I was in a similar situation. I cared for my disabled parents, a disabled husband, raised my son and worked 40 hours a week. I say from experience that it will ruin "Exhausted's" health to live under so much constant stress. No matter how much you love someone, it is an absolutely crushing responsibility that will destroy not only her, but also her children. She owes herself and her children first consideration.

Nobody wants to go to a nursing home, but I was left with no alternative, and the relief was phenomenal. I wish I had done it sooner.

An admission to a nursing home is based on the patient's ability to pay –- not the caregiver's. "Exhausted" shouldn't have to impoverish herself. I hope she doesn't feel total responsibility for this aunt. She will be around longer to raise her children and have some peace of mind if she doesn't try to do it all. –- BEEN THERE AND SUFFERED FOR IT

DEAR BEEN THERE: You have written a valuable letter. While spouses must pay for each other's care, extended family –- including children –- are not legally obligated to bear these expenses. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: As a director of an area agency on aging in Indiana, I empathize with the woman who signed her letter "Exhausted and Angry." Her ill mother asked her to also care for her difficult and surly aunt. She was desperate for ideas on where to find help and alternatives, and you suggested she contact her state or local agency on aging for assistance.

I want to share a nationwide toll-free phone number that might be of help during her search: Elder Care Locator, 1-800-677-1116.

Many people who find themselves in similar situations may benefit from this information. -– ANNE N. JACOBY, AREA 13 AGENCY ON AGING, VINCENNES, IND.

DEAR ANNE: With the aging population surviving longer than ever before, elder care needs are growing by leaps and bounds. The Elder Care Locator 800-number is a wonderful service. Thank you for sharing a valuable resource.

DEAR ABBY: My neighbor told me she had six people staying in her tiny one-bedroom apartment. She asked if one of her friends could stay in my spare room. She said he had plane reservations to return home in a couple of days, so I agreed.

My problem is this "friend" has been smoking in my non-smoking home, eating all my food, making long-distance calls on my telephone, "getting it on" in my spare bed -– and so far, has missed three flights home.

I've always been friendly with my neighbor, but I want her friend out of my apartment –- now. Have you any ideas? –- FEELING USED IN EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR FEELING USED: Your "guest" has taken flagrant advantage of your act of charity. If you want your privacy back, put some starch in your spine and tell him he's worn out the welcome mat -– it's time to go and you want him out in 12 hours. Stick to your guns and accept no excuses. "Help" him pack if necessary. Don't let him make you feel guilty for standing up for yourself. It's uncanny how freeloaders like your "friend" manage to survive.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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