DEAR ABBY: I am 34 and have read your column since I was 14. My parents have a gambling problem. They are both retired and on fixed incomes. They get a check once a month, but as soon as it arrives they spend all their money gambling, and call my sister and me for money because they can't pay their bills.
I don't want to give them any more money because they use it to try and "double" and still don't pay their bills. But my sister and I feel guilty that they don't have any money.
We don't know how to help them. Is it possible to get power of attorney over two gambling addicts who are otherwise healthy adults? If not, what else can you suggest? -- READY TO FOLD IN PHOENIX
DEAR READY TO FOLD: It's good that you realize your parents are gambling ADDICTS, because addicts have certain behaviors that are universal. First among them, they rope the people who love them into becoming enablers. That is what your parents have done to you and your sister. By giving them money "to pay their bills," what you loving daughters are also doing is enabling them to continue their habit.
Getting power of attorney can be difficult unless the person can be proved unable to responsibly take care of him- or herself. Homelessness might be a compelling example of that.
Your first step should be to contact a chapter of Gam-Anon Family Groups. It's a 12-step fellowship for men and women who are husbands, wives, relatives or friends of compulsive gamblers and who have been affected by their loved one's gambling problem. You and your sister definitely qualify. The Web site is www.gam-anon.org.
Once you begin to understand the self-destructive cycle your parents have created, and how they have caught you in it, it'll be easier to help them get the help they so desperately need.