DEAR ABBY: "Torn in Framingham, Mass." wrote that her mother suffers from an Alzheimer's-like dementia. Her personality has changed from polite and socially correct to losing the checks and balances that prevent her from saying whatever comes to mind. She went on to say that her mother sometimes acts up in public places -- like restaurants -- and asked how to explain the situation to the restaurant staff without embarrassing her mother.
I work as a server in an upscale restaurant. As a party was being led to my section recently, a woman from the party left the others and handed me a business card. She smiled and asked me to read it before coming to the table. I went to the server station and did so. It was printed with information about her spouse having Alzheimer's. It was tasteful and informative. Most important, she did not have to say anything in front of her husband that might upset him. I thought it was a great idea. I shared the card with our hostess and the cashier so that no misunderstanding could occur there, either. -- NANCY IN HUNTSVILLE, ALA.
DEAR NANCY: How kind of you to write. Since that letter appeared, I have received mail from readers coast to coast telling me that cards such as the one you were handed are available through the Alzheimer's Association. Typically they read: "The person with me has a disease called Alzheimer's or a related disease. Please be kind and understanding. Thank you."
Readers, if there isn't a chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in your community, contact the National Alzheimer's Association. The toll-free number is (800) 272-3900. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: "Torn in Framingham, Mass." should bring her mother's inappropriate displays to the attention of the woman's physician. As a board-certified geriatrician, I often see families with similar problems. Many of these disruptive behaviors can be controlled with the proper medication or other forms of therapeutic intervention.
Being the caregiver for an Alzheimer's patient can be a stress-filled, 24-hour-a-day job. Help is available, and the assistance and compassionate understanding of professionals can keep the Alzheimer's patient a loving part of the family. -- ARTHUR EFROS, M.D., WEST BLOOMFIELD, MICH.
DEAR ABBY: My husband, normally a very gentle person, has Alzheimer's. When we are going out to eat, I always call the restaurant and inform them of his condition. I ask if there is a time when they are not busy, and request a table in the far corner. In this way, I avoid what could be an unpleasant situation for both the server and my dear husband. I have found if they know ahead of time, they will make every effort to accommodate us. I have even had servers accompany him to the restroom and bring him back to the table. I always leave a generous tip for these servers who go out of their way to make our evening an enjoyable one. -- BEEN THERE AND BACK, EVERETT, WASH.
DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Torn in Framingham" was good, but please go one step further and advise family members, caretakers and other associates of dementia sufferers to contact the Alzheimer's Association and ask for the book "The 36-Hour Day." It is filled with helpful suggestions and advice.
My oldest sister died recently at 79 after a 10-year-battle with Alzheimer's, and my youngest sister has recently been diagnosed with it. I have recommended this book to many people. Those who took the time to read it find it very helpful. -- HORACE IN SPRINGFIELD, OHIO