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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Several years ago, I was hospitalized after being airlifted for emergency treatment. My condition was so dire that I received last sacraments. My daughter and daughter-in-law were with me for admittance, and again two months later when I was released. Other than that, I received nary a call, card or visit.

Medications for high blood pressure and other ailments were prescribed but not filled. My doctor and I were helpless, as my daughter-in-law had my power of attorney.

Then the girls called a psychiatrist to declare me incompetent. Luckily, he befriended me instead and notified the local adult protective services agency. This took five months, during which the girls continued to harass me. It took its toll; I became almost suicidal. It hurt to know that with four grown children living locally, there was no one to step forward and help me.

At that point, I realized I had been abandoned at the corner of Nowhere and Forever. There were repeated hurtful incidents, and to top it off, I fell and fractured my hip. I made four calls to family members -- not one responded.

I finally severed all ties with my family. For a long time I refused to share my story, fearful it would reflect badly on me. But doctors and therapists I have met through adult protective services have repeatedly assured me, "It happens! THEY are the ones who should feel guilty."

Yes, it hurts. The wounds are deep. However, although I am no longer young, I am embarking on a new life, and have gained new friends and loving, caring relationships. I have never known such happiness and peace of mind.

Abby, please print this so anyone who is feeling hurt and abandoned will know there is always hope. Hang in there -- I am, and life is good again. -- HEALING IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR HEALING: Although your experience was devastating, I'm pleased the outcome has been so positive.

Readers, if you know a senior citizen who is being physically, psychologically or financially abused, adult protective services are as near as your phone book -– and as this letter proves, they can literally be a lifesaver. If there is no listing for your community, contact the police.

DEAR ABBY: "Keeping Secrets in Chicago" wrote about children who confide a problem in a trusted adult other than a parent, and asked if that person is supposed to keep the confidence or intercede with the parents on the child's behalf.

I have been an educator for almost 30 years -- 20 having been spent as a middle-school teacher. I have often been the confidante for troubled teens. This is what I have learned:

Never, ever promise not to tell. When asked to keep a secret, I always reply: "I can see that you are troubled, and I'm here to help you if I can. But I can't promise not to tell."

Abby, I have never had a teenager walk away. They've always chosen to go ahead and share their problem with me. I am then free to use my judgment about how best to serve the student's best interest. -- CHRIS BERGQUIST FULMER, NORTH LAKE COLLEGE, IRVING, TEXAS

DEAR CHRIS: That's a good policy. To do otherwise would betray a confidence.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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