DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Dwight," was very ill a few years ago. Some wonderful folks held a fundraiser to help us with bills and unpaid leave. We paid all of the outstanding medical bills and living expenses with a large portion of the money; the remainder has been set aside for an organ transplant Dwight will need a few years down the road.
We are extremely grateful to everyone who put forth the time and effort, as well as those who donated money. Dwight is now in remission, and we are both back to our full-time jobs.
Over the last three years, the only time we have taken for ourselves is a couple of long weekends. Our home is old and we've had to replace some windows and do some minor repairs. Our car is 10 years old and still runs fine, but eventually we will have to buy another one.
I'm afraid that people who helped us may think we are squandering their gift if we take a vacation or buy a car. Even when we repaired our home, we felt guilty.
My husband is healthy right now, and we would like to enjoy ourselves before things change again. The last thing we want to do is hurt anyone's feelings or jeopardize our friendships. Would you please share your thoughts on this? -- LIVING IN A GLASS HOUSE
DEAR LIVING: In a situation like yours, appearances DO matter. People are extremely sensitive these days about money that is intended for one purpose being spent on another.
If you haven't already done so, to avoid any misunderstandings, put what remains of the donated monies into a separate interest-bearing account earmarked for your husband's transplant. This will enable you to live your lives.
Should anyone second-guess you, explain that you are taking the vacation or buying the next car with your earnings, and that the funds that were donated will eventually be used for the purpose for which they were intended.
DEAR ABBY: My wife is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. I can no longer trust her using restrooms unaccompanied when we are away from home.
She has locked the stall door and sometimes just sits in there and won't respond.
Should I be using the men's or women's facility when I have to help her? -- ROBERT J.
DEAR ROBERT: Caring for someone with a progressive brain disease like Alzheimer's can present many challenges. Helping a spouse use a public restroom is one of the most difficult tasks for many of the 10 million American caregivers -- and I am sure many of them will appreciate not only your question but also your challenge.
Because using the restroom is difficult for your wife, be sure to take that into consideration when planning all her activities. By calling the establishments ahead of time, you can determine which restaurant, mall, etc. offers unisex or family restrooms. If you find yourself somewhere with only a men's or women's bathroom, ask an employee for assistance. He or she should be able to clear the women's restroom for a few minutes so you can help your wife while respecting everyone's privacy.
In addition to caring for your wife, I cannot stress enough how important it is to take care of yourself. For more caregiver tips and support, call the Alzheimer's Association's toll-free, 24-hour helpline at (800) 272-3900 anytime day or night, or visit the Web site at www.alz.org.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)