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Dear Abby: My husband's mother, at 87, has many health problems. She complains constantly and frequently runs to the neighbors, begging them to let her spend the night. After frantic phone calls from the neighbors, my husband and his sister confer with their mother and offer suggestions as to her long-term care. But they give up after she insists that:

1. She can take care of herself.2. She will not allow any stranger to stay in her home with her for fear he or she will rob her.

3. She flatly refuses to move in with her daughter because of the potential loss of her freedom, and . . .

4. She is not ready for a nursing home.

This leaves us reacting to emergencies from a distance (we live in another state), which is expensive and creates turmoil. My husband is disabled due to a serious heart condition, and the anxiety created by these events is taking its toll.

Abby, how do we convince this selfish woman she needs help and her neighbors should not be burdened continuously - and also that these repeated emergencies indicate that she must cooperate in the planning of her long-term care?

When faced by similar situations with my parents, I made plans for their care and implemented them in spite of their objections. But my husband and his sister are afraid to act against their mother's wishes, so we continue living with a sword over our heads. Is there a solution?

- Concerned Daughter-In-Law

Dear Daughter-In-Law: Self-sufficient people do not run to the neighbors begging to spend the night. But from your description, your mother-in-law may not be so incompetent that she should be excluded from decisions that affect her.

Her choices are not limited to either a live-in companion or a nursing home. Facilities exist that offer only as much assistance as seniors need. And many communities (and private agencies) provide caregivers and case managers who visit the home, make assessments and provide referrals.

The local area agency on aging in your mother-in-law's place of residence is aware of community resources. Sectarian and non-sectarian family agencies can also provide help.

And finally, the Department of Family Services in your own community has support groups for adult children who must deal with this very common problem. I urge your husband and his sister to get involved in one, because they are not alone.

Dear Abby: Thank you for printing the inspirational poem "It Couldn't Be Done" by Edgar A. Guest. Perhaps you might not have the sequel to that poem:

"They told him, by golly, it couldn't be done.

"With a smile, he started right to it.

"And he tackled the job that couldn't be done,

"And by golly, he couldn't do it."

- Bill Bruner, Cedartown, Ga.