Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I have a suggestion for "Wondering in Cleveland," whose Aunt Irene goes prowling through drawers during family gatherings. Rather than excluding her from future family get-togethers, how about leaving notes in all the drawers that say something like, "Hello, Aunt Irene. We hope that all our drawers pass your inspection!"

That ought to embarrass her enough to get her to cut it out without having to actually confront her. -- DAUGHTER OF ANOTHER SNOOP IN KENTUCKY

DEAR DAUGHTER: That's a cute idea -- another reader suggested stuffing the medicine chests with marbles. But several people wrote to point out that the woman could have a problem far more serious than bad manners. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: You said Aunt Irene was just nosy and should not be invited back if her behavior continued. I suspect that the poor lady may suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Her behavior seems too over-the-top to just be that of a nosy person, and it fits someone who has OCD. If that's the case, what Aunt Irene needs is professional help. -- ANOTHER VIEW, NEWPORT BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: My grandmother is in the late stages of Alzheimer's disease. Before it became obvious to those who weren't aware that she had it, she would often wander away during dinner and other family get-togethers. We would find her in bedrooms or bathrooms. She thought she was in her own home and not intruding on anybody.

"Wondering's" uncle may have seemed embarrassed when approached about the situation because he is not yet ready to divulge some touchy information. I'm offering this as food for thought that may help them in understanding the aunt's strange behavior. Locking the doors to the bedrooms would also be a good solution. -- LAURA IN NEW PORT RICHEY, FLA.

DEAR ABBY: I had the same experience with my mother when my uncle passed away. I took her to the funeral 1,000 miles away. He was her only brother. She became restless and wandered from room to room, opening closets. My aunt was very annoyed and embarrassed by her behavior. I thought her uncharacteristic behavior was caused by grief.

It turned out my mother was in the early stages of Alzheimer's. Alzheimer's patients live in a state of confusion. They prowl around trying to find something that makes sense to them. They misplace valuables and look in drawers and closets for them, and they also forget what they are looking for.

Your advice to leave her out of family gatherings and tell her it is because of her behavior would be cruel. If she has Alzheimer's, she has no power of reasoning or logic, and her feelings would be very hurt. I took my mother into my home for the last five years of her life. It was the most difficult task I have ever done, but it was character-building because of the patience I had to learn. Aunt Irene will need a lot of love and understanding if she, too, has this disease -- if that is what it is, and I'm betting she does. -- JAYNE IN WACO, TEXAS

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby