DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, a gay man in his 60s. We met while we worked for the same company 11 years ago, and have stayed in touch even after I moved out of state. He has never had a relationship. He didn't have a great childhood or upbringing, and his self-esteem is low. Because of his poor eating and living habits, he is now in a nursing home and dependent on others for his care.
My problem is, he's very needy and he calls me regularly to talk. We have little in common (politically, spiritually, emotionally) but he keeps me on the phone for one, two or even three hours -- usually late in the evening -- until I finally tell him I am sleepy and need to go to bed. I hate to not take his call, but I cringe when I see it's him calling. Sometimes I tell him I'm watching an important TV program or have to get up early (even when I don't).
I don't want to hurt his feelings. I have tried to be there for him, although he ignores my advice about anything related to health or finances or being proactive about his care. He's very self-effacing and doesn't want to offend anyone. I'm not really helping other than to provide contact. (He has others as well.) Could you tell me what I could say to him without hurting him? -- KIND LADY IN THE NORTHWEST
DEAR KIND LADY: You need to decide how much time you want to devote to listening to this poor man. Would 30 minutes every few weeks be workable for you? When you see it's him calling, do not pick up if you don't feel in the mood for the conversation.