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DEAR ABBY: I've been best friends with "Mary" since we were 13. We're 23 now. We tell each other everything and are as close as sisters. We went to high school together, but I graduated and Mary dropped out in senior year with the intention of finishing up later. She never did. She does want a GED, but her lack of a degree hasn't been a big issue because she got married and had a kid, and her husband works.

Lately, Mary has confided (and I've seen) that their marriage is troubled. There's a real possibility that she will soon be on her own with a kid, no job experience, no high school diploma and nowhere to go. Aside from raising her kid (who she adores and is her whole life), she has no hobbies or projects, nothing to look forward to or to pour her energy into. It's literally just "wake up, watch the kid, clean, cook, sleep." I think it's taking a toll on her and she's depressed. I want to help Mary, but I don't know how. I don't want to get into her personal business, but I also don't want to see her thrown into a terrible situation. Any advice? -- CLOSE AS SISTERS

DEAR CLOSE AS SISTERS: It's time to have a frank talk with your friend about the trouble in her marriage and that you are concerned she may be depressed. While you're at it, tell her how important it is that she get that GED. If she does, she may gain the confidence to improve other aspects of her life. Then keep your fingers crossed that Mary will listen and heed your advice.


DEAR ABBY: When we are young, nothing prepares us for watching our parents grow old. Sometimes we must make the difficult decision about putting Mom or Dad in an assisted living facility. Making it even more difficult, there may have been promises made about never putting someone in assisted living.

Abby, please remind your readers not to make promises they can't keep. Sometimes kids must make decisions based on what's best for our parents to ensure they are cared for when they can no longer care for themselves and the kids can't be there 24/7. Going against someone's wishes is very difficult, but it's important to remember that these decisions are made because you care about and love the person. -- CARES VERY MUCH IN UTAH

DEAR CARES: I think what most seniors fear about being put into assisted living or a nursing home is that once they are there, they will be forgotten or ignored by their families. While making this kind of decision is difficult, I agree that it is sometimes necessary. However, when relocating a parent is necessary, family members should make every effort to visit and to make sure their loved one is included in every activity that person is capable of enjoying. Unfortunately, if that doesn't happen, the person in the institution is left feeling unloved and abandoned.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)

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