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by Abigail Van Buren

Struggling Sister Should Get Help and Get Going

DEAR ABBY: I have a hard time differentiating between enabling and just helping out my sister. Throughout her adult life, even while she was married, she has never been able to make ends meet.

She's single now and in her 50s, a hardworking but underemployed, depressed individual. I have a good job and I feel guilty if I don't help her each month. (She doesn't ask, but drops enough hints that I know things aren't going well.)

I have suggested repeatedly that she needs to find a better job. I even send her job leads, but I'm not sure she actually ever applies. My friends and relatives say I should use tough love and stop helping her. But I hate to see her struggle, and I don't want her kicked out of her apartment.

I will be retiring soon and won't be able to continue giving her money. What should I do? -- SYMPATHETIC IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR SYMPATHETIC: Have a frank talk with your sister NOW. Ask her how many of the leads you gave her were followed up on. Because you say she is chronically depressed, encourage her to see a doctor and find out what kind of help there is for her. It may be the reason for her divorce and for her inability to seek other work and improve her financial situation.

That you will no longer be able to continue assisting her financially is something your sister needs to know ASAP, so she won't be cut off abruptly. This isn't tough love; that you will be on a fixed income is a fact of life. You have been a wonderful sister. You have done more than many people would, so do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself.

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