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Dear Annie: A friend’s behavioral changes

By Annie Lane Creators Syndicate

Dear Annie: I have a friend named “Paula.” At least I think she’s my friend. We met in nursing school in the 1980s and have hung out ever since. But for almost a year, she’s been acting odd.

We like to go out for Chinese food at least once a month. She often calls at the last minute saying she is sick or didn’t get to sleep till 4 a.m. or some other excuse. It recently took her over a month to get over a stomach virus. But she was well enough during this time to go to a church retreat two hours away and meet with her sister. She said she stayed in the room a lot. Prior to this trip, she had been in the emergency room with an IV because she had gotten dehydrated.

She has a bad hip, and instead of using a walker, she uses two canes.

The most recent time we went out, we decided to shop a little. She is germaphobic and won’t drink out of a water fountain. She tried to go into the employee lounge of the store to get a soft drink. Thank goodness the employees who stopped her were nice, and one got her a drink.

She acts so erratically at times that I wonder whether she’s on drugs. If I call her, it may take a week or more before she calls back. She’s been divorced three times. She won’t watch one particular TV show because it reminds her of her second husband. She won’t watch another show because it takes place in the city where she lived with her third husband and it reminds her of that. She doesn’t like a certain country singer because the singer’s name is similar to the name of a woman a boyfriend of hers left her for.

I know she’s on meds for depression, but they don’t seem to help. What can I do? She won’t let me in her house, and I know why. I can smell the cat and dog feces from the porch. She was never like this. Please help. – A Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned: You’ve been friends with this woman for about 30 years, so the sudden flakiness is cause for concern about her well-being, especially in light of all the other erratic behaviors you mentioned. She may be suffering from dementia (of which hoarding is a symptom), depression or another condition, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, which also causes hoarding. (Visit for more information.)

You can’t handle this situation on your own. Enlist the help of her family and/or of professionals. Encourage her to seek and accept help. She is not mentally well right now, and she may not take kindly to your involvement, at least not at first. But it’s the right thing to do, and she’s lucky to have a friend like you.

Dear Annie: This is in response to ”Nancy Across the Way,” who is fed up with how the young mother across the street yells at her kids. I am not advocating yelling, but as a mom of two young boys, I can identify with how difficult it is to be on time in the morning. Additionally, there is much involved behind closed doors, and the mom may live with mental illness in some aspect. I am married to someone who has a mood disorder, and most days are very difficult for our family. Most folks who live with this are isolated and have few friends. My advice to the neighbor is to help this mother reduce her isolation. Offer support instead of judgment. Perhaps Nancy could take her focus off the yelling by baking some cookies and giving this mom a word of support. It would speak volumes and probably make Nancy feel better, too. – In Peace and Hope

Send your questions for Annie Lane to To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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