DEAR ABBY: My elderly mother lives in a rural area. Luckily, she is surrounded by wonderful neighbors who enable her to continue living in her home without assistance. They shop for her, maintain her lawn, do handyman repairs, cook for her and regularly check on her well-being.

Unfortunately, after being discharged from a recent hospital stay, Mama discovered that one of her “trusted” neighbors has been using her credit card to pay their utilities. She is heartsick. She has taken the necessary steps to cancel the credit card, but now is conflicted about the best way to handle such a sensitive issue.

Abby, is there a way for everyone to save face in this situation? – LOVE THY NEIGHBOR

I hope you realize that what you have described is more than an embarrassment. It is elder abuse and fraud.

With one glaring exception, your mother’s neighbors are angels. However, they have shouldered a responsibility – seeing that your mother is cared for – that really belongs to your family. If you cannot personally see to it that she gets the help she needs to live independently, you should contact your state’s Area Agency on Aging or Department of Social Services and arrange for someone who is bonded to do it.

A social worker can help your mother report this matter to the police in a way that she will not be embarrassed and that may help her recover the funds that were stolen.

DEAR ABBY: I am at my wits’ end with my 9-year-old son, “Zane.” After his wrestling practice I tell him to take a shower. He either flat-out refuses or makes excuses to prolong not taking one and then refuses. A few times I have had to personally bathe him. Zane doesn’t brush his teeth regularly and barely changes his underwear. I don’t know what to do to get him to take care of his personal hygiene. Please give me some advice. – TANYA IN NORTH LIMA, OHIO

One effective way to get a child to live by the rules is to establish them and consistently enforce them. If you are unable to get through to Zane, perhaps his wrestling coach can impress upon him the importance of personal hygiene.

When Zane returns from wrestling practice, inform him that dinner will not be served until he has taken his shower. In the mornings, let him know he is expected to brush his teeth before coming to the breakfast table, and check him out. This may be a stage your son is going through, but if it persists for more than six months, you may need more help than I can give you in this column and you should consult a child psychologist.

DEAR ABBY: When dining out at an establishment where you order your food at the counter and then they bring your food to the table, is a tip necessary?

Also, when going to coffee shops, tip jars frequently sit on the counter. How obligated should I feel to tip the people behind the counter? – JAMI IN NASHUA, N.H.

DEAR JAMI: Food servers often earn minimum wage, which they supplement with the tips they receive. If your server is efficient and pleasant, you should leave a tip. The usual amount is between 10 and 20 percent.

At a coffee shop where there is a tip jar, assuming that you did not sit down to be served, you should put your spare change into the jar.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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