DEAR ABBY: Over the past month I have accidentally dialed a couple of wrong numbers. Because no one answered, I didn't think it was necessary to leave a message.
Abby, both times the recipient of the wrong number called me to find out why I had called. The first time it was an irate mother demanding to know why I was calling her kid's cellphone. She threatened to call the police if I ever called again. The second individual also angrily demanded to know why I was calling. These folks could not accept the fact that I had simply misdialed.
I feel their reactions were unwarranted. Would you agree? What is the best way to respond if it happens again? -- HONESTLY MISTAKEN IN PLANO, TEXAS
DEAR HONESTLY MISTAKEN: People call wrong numbers every day. A misdial can occur if the caller is in a hurry or has poor vision, and it should not be a cause for panic or rudeness. If it happens again, the best way to respond is, "I misdialed. I'm sorry I bothered you." Then end the call.
DEAR ABBY: My mother's Alzheimer's became apparent after she was in a car accident. I should have noticed the signs earlier, but I didn't. Her body recovered, her mind did not.
I built a new house with a separate suite for her. My wife and I tried to care for her for a year, but I'm disabled and Mom was afraid of my wife. There was never a moment's peace. Fearing for our collective health, I finally placed Mom into an assisted living facility. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life.
My children criticized me but offered no alternatives. I visited her as often as possible. Because I could no longer drive, I sent someone with gifts and treats for her. Mom died in 2007 after 10 years in the facility. The last few years she didn't know me from a doorknob. Her disease left my wife and me drained emotionally and financially. I still feel guilty for not doing more. The look of fear on her face haunts me still. Is this normal for someone in my circumstances? -- ONLY CHILD IN FLORIDA
DEAR ONLY CHILD: Yes, it's very common. I'm sorry for your mother's passing and the difficult years you and your family experienced because of her illness.
Given the progressive nature of Alzheimer's, it can be extremely taxing and affect the physical, mental and financial health not only of the person with the disease, but also his or her caregivers. When caregivers attempt to shoulder these responsibilities alone, they put their own health at risk. Moving your mother into a residential facility was a way to ensure she got the care she needed and take care of yourself at the same time.
Alzheimer's disease is often referred to as a "marathon, not a sprint." That's why it's important for caregivers to get help -- whether it's a residential facility, professional in-home help or family and friends. If they don't, the results can be disastrous.
It's common for caregivers to feel guilty and wish they could have done more, but it's important that you let these feelings go. You did everything you could to ensure your mother received the best care possible. If you need to talk to someone about your feelings, call the Alzheimer's Association toll-free 24/7 helpline at 800-272-3900, or visit alz.org online to find a local chapter or support group.
To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.