Q: 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
A: 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.
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Q: 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
A: 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.
Q: My 16-year-old son and I are having a debate and would love your take on the matter. I think if you stand in a grocery store checkout line and read a magazine without buying it that it’s stealing. He doesn’t agree. What do you say? — Just Looking
A: If your son is reading the magazine from cover to cover, then I agree he’s helping himself to something he’s not entitled to. If he is only “sampling” to see if there are enough articles in the magazine that he thinks it’s worth buying, I wouldn’t call it theft. Using your yardstick, judging from the number of people I have seen at checkout counters with their noses buried in the tabloids, that would make us a nation of thieves.
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