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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Confronts Dilemma of Care for Ailing Father

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been going round and round about nursing homes. My father's illness and memory loss have brought us face-to-face with the issue. This dilemma is not for those families who can afford to pay for someone to care for a patient in his or her own home. Nor does it apply to those who can afford an assisted-living facility.

When is it the "best-case scenario" for someone's continued care to be provided by a nursing home? Or should the parent be allowed to remain at home despite the consequences? Is it more compassionate to prolong his or her life in an environment that he or she would never have chosen or agreed to, or is it irresponsible to honor his or her wishes to live alone, with limited assistance, even though it may lead to an early death?

My father's care is far too complex and time-consuming for me or any other family member to take on in our own homes.

Your advice would be welcomed in making this complicated and emotional decision. -- DISTRESSED DAUGHTER IN ILLINOIS

DEAR DAUGHTER: The decision you're facing is a wrenching one, and you have my sympathy. The question you must answer is, is your parent aware enough of his surroundings that he even knows where he is?

Has he reached the point that he could wander and be unable to find his way home? Is he getting enough to eat? Can he bathe himself, or does he need assistance with hygiene and dressing? Is there family close enough to check on him in case he falls? If there was a fire, would he know what to do?

These are scenarios in which your father should not be living alone. If he has become so demented that he is a danger to himself, then sad as it may be, you must listen to your conscience and understand that past promises no longer apply.

DEAR ABBY: After giving my wife of 10 years a divorce at her request, she continues to contact me. She'll call about little things like what color to paint the house, things that are going on at work, or who she went dancing with. Why is she doing this? -- ALREADY MOVED ON

DEAR ALREADY MOVED ON: Because on some level, although she requested the divorce, she's unable to completely let go. Or, she fantasizes that you're actually interested in the things she's talking about. If her calls are an imposition, why don't you tell her so and put an end to the conversation?

DEAR ABBY: I'm a male, in my second year of high school. I'm interested in joining a club at school called the Gay Straight Alliance. The purpose of this club is to end prejudice against gays, lesbians and bisexual people. The club tries to show the community that gays are people, too, and that they don't deserve to be ridiculed and disrespected.

My parents oppose my wanting to join. They told me that because they do not support gay rights, I shouldn't either. My father even threatened to write the school board to keep me from joining the club. The school board must abide by his wishes if he writes them to do so. While I understand my parents' lack of support and do not expect it, would my father's actions be appropriate? -- STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW

DEAR STRAIGHT BUT NOT NARROW: Not in my book. But he has done something right. He has raised a son with the intellect and backbone not only to think for himself, but also to speak out. It would be wonderful if you could educate your father, but don't count on being able to do so.

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 $6 (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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