DEAR HARRIETTE: I was at an event last week and learned that a woman I have known for all of my professional life is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. I am devastated. She was a force in our community, and I would see her from time to time. I admit that when I have seen her in recent years, she sometimes was distant, but I chalked that up to her just being odd. Now I have learned that she is largely not mentally present. I am so sorry. I’m told that mostly she doesn’t know people. I want to reach out anyway. Is it worth it? -- Friend in Need, Milwaukee
DEAR FRIEND IN NEED: Do your due diligence first. Identify a mutual friend who is close to her. Check in, saying that you recently learned of this woman’s condition. Ask if there is anything you can do to be of support. Add that you would like to be in touch with her or do something to let her know that you care about her and want to be of support. Be specific when you ask what you can do to help. You may be told that you can call, but be prepared that she may not recognize your voice. You may be advised to send her a small gift or a card. Your good wishes and prayers do count.
If she has caregivers, those people could use encouragement. It is very difficult to take care of a person with any type of dementia. Your loving support of them counts as well.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am going home to visit family this Thanksgiving, and I’m kind of nervous. I haven’t been home in a long time, and I know that people have expectations of me and what I have accomplished since I have been gone.
Right now, my life is rocky. I lost my job and have been temping to pay the bills. I’m figuring it out, but I don’t want to talk about what’s going on. How can I be honest with people and keep my privacy? I really don’t want to talk about my trials and tribulations. -- Shut Up, Calvert County, Maryland
DEAR SHUT UP: You will need to decide what you are comfortable sharing about your life, because you know people will be asking. Most often the questioning comes out of love and a desire to support you and to be able to brag about what you are up to. Think of highlights that you can share about your life that are interesting and benign. Do you like to garden? What hobbies do you enjoy? Are you into fitness? Select something that points to how you have joy in your life.
As far as work goes, you can say that you are in transition. If you know what you are looking for or what you are interested in, you can talk about that while admitting that right now your work pays the bills but isn’t what you intend long-term.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)