DEAR ABBY: I work in a small office with two former heavy smokers who have now transitioned to vapor/e-cigarettes. My concern is that they "smoke" their e-cigarettes in the office constantly, and I don't know what chemicals I am now breathing secondhand.
Both of them are senior to me in rank and age, and they pooh-pooh the notion that anything but water vapor is being exhaled. Am I making something out of nothing, or should I be worried about this? -- CLEAN AIR
DEAR CLEAN AIR: You don't have anything to worry about, but your co-workers may. In 2009, the FDA announced the findings from a laboratory analysis that indicated that electronic cigarettes expose users to harmful chemical ingredients, including carcinogens. However, those elements were not detected in exhaled vapor.
DEAR ABBY: The woman who collaborated with me on this letter is in her 80s and lives at an assisted-living facility. I am a caregiver and a senior myself, and I have worked in this area for six years.
We read your column on the days I care for her. She loves it and responds verbally to all the letters. Many times the situations spark good conversation, even though her short-term memory is failing. Sometimes we end up howling with laughter. She's a delight and has the courage to still seek out relationships.
This is what she asked me to help her to communicate. -- KATE IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: I have been in assisted living for seven years. There are times when it can be lonely and boring. I'd like to meet some men for companionship, conversation and perhaps romance. The men here act so much older than me. They don't start conversations. They stay in their rooms and watch TV and don't seem interested in conversations.
It's hard because my memory isn't what it used to be, but I do remember how nice it was to have male companionship. Do you have any ideas to make my life a little more interesting? -- LONELY WOMAN
DEAR LONELY: Start by making sure you participate in all the activities your assisted-living facility offers. Shared mealtimes and holiday celebrations also present opportunities to mingle.
The trick is to find something you have in common with these men -- sports, games, music, movies. Because long-term memory outlasts short-term memory, some of them might find it easier to discuss their youth than the present.
Encourage your caregiver, Kate, to take you places where you can meet other seniors. And while you're at it, why not invite some of the men to join you both during your Dear Abby sessions? It's a way to draw people out and get to know them better.
DEAR ABBY: After a six-month separation, my husband and I are reuniting. We were married for 22 years. I know for a fact he has dated and slept with several women. He's adamant that he used protection each time, but the idea of STDs has me preoccupied and worried. I have asked him to use protection with me until I get over my fear.
How long do most of today's STDs incubate, and what is a safe time to wait to remove the "rain gear"? -- LONGING FOR CONTACT
DEAR LONGING: Congratulations on your reunion. Rather than worry about this, ask your husband to schedule a doctor's appointment and be tested for any STD he might have contracted. Not all STDs have the same incubation period, but a blood test could resolve the issue and put your mind at ease.
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.
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