DEAR ABBY: Everyone knows the economy has hit hard times and, as a result, more people are working past the age of retirement. This means some in the workplace are beginning to deal with Alzheimer’s and other dementia- related illnesses.

”Anita” is in her late 60s and we are certain she is showing symptoms of dementia. She has worked in our office about three years, after working in this field for more than 30 years elsewhere. But if you saw her in our office today, you would think it was her first week — if not her first day.

Anita makes multiple mistakes every day, then sits at her desk and cries her eyes out. Our supervisor insists there is nothing he or HR can do in regards to talking (gently) to her because she could sue the company.

I’m sorry Anita is suffering, but must we let her deteriorate for three more years in our office? That’s how long she is planning on staying, even though she’s eligible for retirement. Her family lives elsewhere in the state and may not realize she is ill. Were she my mother, I would want someone to do something. What’s the right thing to do for everyone involved? — STUMPED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR STUMPED: I discussed your question with Nancy Bertrando, a respected California employment law specialist, who told me: “If a person is unable to perform the essential functions of her job — regardless of the reason — an employer does not have the obligation to keep the person in that position. However, regardless of whether your supervisor or HR thinks it is futile, Anita should be counseled and given the opportunity to fix the problem — if, indeed, it is fixable.”

DEAR ABBY: My husband runs an auto body shop and has always warned me to be extra careful in parking lots — “People don’t pay attention. They drive too fast. Everyone’s always in a hurry,” etc. Well, tomorrow I am going to the memorial service for a dear friend, “Mara.” She was only 46.

While Mara was putting her granddaughter into a stroller, they were hit. A woman driving too fast hit a car backing out of a parking space, careened off that car and ran over Mara. Mara was pinned underneath the car until the fire department arrived and lifted it off her. Mara’s daughter saw it all. The 3-year-old is still in the hospital, but will survive.

I realize my friend died over a parking spot. I hope people reading this will see that we all need to slow down and pay attention. A car can be as lethal as a gun. I didn’t “get it” before, but now I do. Because of the reckless actions of a complete stranger, you can kiss your husband goodbye, go shopping and never return! I hope this nightmare can help others. — MISSING THE SISTER OF MY HEART

DEAR MISSING: Please know how sorry I am about the tragic death of your friend. I cannot stress enough how important it is to remain fully present while behind the wheel of a vehicle. Our streets and highways are filled with distractions, as are our cars — billboards, cell phones, stereo buttons, the GPS, etc. I am sure the woman who struck Mara and her grandchild will never get over the fact that she took one life and could have taken another.

Readers, I hope you will review this woman’s letter and remember it the next time you’re “in a hurry.” It could save a life.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” — Anne Frank

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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