Dear Abby: More and more of my friends are trying to work and take care of parents who have Alzheimer's disease. One of my closest friends' husbands was recently diagnosed with it. He is only 62. I thought Alzheimer's was only memory loss, but it seems like so much more. His personality has changed. She tells me he gets angry with her when she tries to help him.
What exactly is Alzheimer's, and what can be done to stop it? – Unsure in Oak Park, Illinois
Dear Unsure: I'm sorry to say – from personal experience – that Alzheimer's disease, while often thought of as "minor memory loss," is a disease that is ultimately fatal. Its cause is not yet understood. I lost my mother to it. Alzheimer's kills nerve cells and tissue in the brain, causing it to shrink dramatically. It affects a person's ability to communicate, to think and, eventually, to breathe. At least 44 million people worldwide are now living with Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. As our populations age, those numbers will swell to 76 million by 2030.
Currently there is no way to prevent, stop or even to slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Some drugs manage the symptoms, but only temporarily. This is why more funding for Alzheimer's and more support for the families who are caring for loved ones who have it are so urgently needed. Please suggest to your friend that she contact the Alzheimer's Association for help because it offers support groups for spouses.
Readers, June is Alzheimer's and Brain Awareness Month. If you are concerned about Alzheimer's disease – and we all should be – you can get involved by joining the global fight against this very nasty disease. To learn more, visit alz.org/abam.
Dear Abby: I'm currently dating a man who is 10 years older than I am. I'm 24; he's 34. We have known each other for two years and we live together. He has two beautiful daughters I adore.
His older daughter, "Pearl" (age 12), called me "Mom" the other night, and then asked me if it was OK. I'm not their mother, and I would never try to take that role away from my boyfriend's ex, but this puts me in an awkward situation. As much as I love his girls, I don't want to cause drama or have Pearl get in trouble with her mother. – She Called Me Mom
She Called Me Mom: Talk to Pearl. Tell her you were touched knowing she feels that way about you and deeply flattered when she called you "Mom," but you feel if her mother knew about it that she would be hurt. (This is especially true if the girls live with their mother.) Then ask Pearl to come up with another affectionate name for you, or suggest one to her.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.