Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: My beautiful, loving mother is now in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. This cruel disease has robbed her of her memories as well as the ability to reason and function.

She held my hand through every trial and triumph in my life, and I want to support her the way she has always supported me. But caring for Mama is becoming more and more difficult as she drifts further and further away. Not only am I caring for my mother, I also have a career and three children.

I have so little time to myself. From the financial considerations to the behavioral challenges to safety concerns, I can't keep my head above water. Please tell me what to do.

— OVERWHELMED IN CINCINNATI

DEAR OVERWHELMED: I'll try. I know from personal experience how difficult it is to see a loved one face the changes that Alzheimer's disease brings. Although you feel alone and overwhelmed right now, the truth is you are not.

Today, an estimated 10 million Americans are caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia. More than 40 percent of them rate their emotional stress level as high or very high, and it is a danger to their health.

Some signs to be aware of: feeling you have to "do it all yourself" and that you should be doing more; withdrawing from family, friends and activities that you used to enjoy; worrying that the person you care for is safe; feeling anxious about money and health-care decisions; denying the impact of the disease and its effect on your family; feeling grief or sadness that your relationship with the person isn't what it used to be; becoming frustrated and angry when the person continually repeats things and doesn't seem to listen; and having health problems that are taking a toll on you.

If any of these apply to you, it is important that you take care of your own physical and mental health. Make time to talk to your doctor and contact the Alzheimer's Association because it offers a full range of services. The toll-free number is (800) 272-3900 or visit www.alz.org and take the Caregiver Stress Check interactive quiz. You will find with it a list of helpful referrals there.

DEAR ABBY: I am 43, and my boyfriend, "Sid," is 52. We have been together a year and a half. I was married once, and Sid has been married three times. He wants to live together, and I want to be engaged with a wedding date before I move in.

We truly love each other and communicate very well. Because of a previous rebound marriage that lasted only a year, Sid is cautious about making another mistake. After we had been together for a year, I gave him a year to make up his mind about marriage. In the months that followed, I could tell from some of the remarks he made that he had no burning desire to be married any time soon.

After five months of listening to those statements, I gave Sid an ultimatum. He asked me for a week to think about it, then he told me he still wasn't ready — he needed a few more months. So I broke up with him. Was I right in giving Sid an ultimatum?

— OUT OF PATIENCE IN MIAMI

DEAR OUT OF PATIENCE: Let me be sure I have the math right. If you promised Sid another year to make up his mind and then gave him an ultimatum after five months and one week, then you jumped the gun. If you gave him the second year and he continued to stall, then you did the right thing. After three wrong turns down the aisle, Sid is no longer the marrying kind.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.