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Abby: Friend’s growing confusion could be dementia sign

Dear Abby
Jeanne Phillips

Dear Abby: I have a good friend I have traveled with for many years. The last few years she has been showing increasing signs of confusion and forgetfulness. She has difficulty managing her paperwork for travel and remembering what our plans are for the next day.

On the most recent trip she picked up other people’s coats and insisted they were hers. My attempts to discuss this with her only made things worse and led to her accusing me of destroying her confidence. I believe this is the onset of dementia. How can I help her?

Noticing Things in California

Dear Noticing: You are describing a serious and progressive problem. If your good friend has a spouse, children or siblings, they should be notified about what you have observed.

If she has no one, then someone at Social Services or Adult Protective Services should be contacted before your friend gets herself into serious trouble by forgetting to pay her bills, or getting lost while driving her car.

Dear Abby: Have you any suggestions about letting go? A former friend is involved in a New Age sex group. He can no longer hold a casual conversation without expounding on their practices and “theology,” as he considers it. My rational self understands that his life is his to do with as he wishes, but my emotional self grieves that he is distancing himself from family and friends.

I know I’m not my brother’s keeper, but he was like a brother to me, and I blame myself that I was unable to reach him when this was merely something he was curious about instead of a radical new lifestyle. How do I accept that he’s a lost cause and quit worrying about him?

Not My Brother’s Keeper

Dear Not: Because you are having trouble accepting that your former friend is a “lost cause,” view it as his having taken a different path than you have chosen. If you prefer not to hear about your friend’s alternative lifestyle, you should say so.

If he respects your feelings, he will stick to subjects the two of you have in common and quit “expounding.” If he can’t do that, then recognize that as much as you might wish to, you can’t live someone else’s life, and then move on because friendships either evolve or they wither.

Dear Abby: My parents built a two-bedroom apartment onto their house for my brother and his wife when they were struggling financially. They decided to move out of state, so my single sister is now in the apartment.

It has been a year, and my brother and his wife are now expecting. They have moved back to the area because they want to raise the baby near family, and want the apartment back. Of course, my sister doesn’t want to give it back.

I feel she shouldn’t have to.

I agree with my sister that my brother gave it up. But my brother feels my single sister doesn’t need a two-bedroom apartment. On that point I agree with him. My husband, my parents and I are in the middle.

What do you think should be done?

Squabbling Siblings

Dear “Squab”: Get out of the middle by stepping away. The apartment belongs to your parents, and it is up to them to decide who gets to use it. The rule of etiquette in a situation like this is: Mouth shut! (The more you involve yourself, the more one of your siblings is sure to resent you.)

Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.