DEAR ABBY: This is for "The Lonesome Caretaker," who cared for her husband who had Alzheimer's disease for 14 years. She is to be commended for her loyalty and devotion.

It is all too common for one person to bear the burden of caring for an ailing spouse, parent or loved one with little help from other family members.We have a fairly new help group in Gadsden, Ala. We caregivers meet with other caregivers, exchanging information and finding comfort in the company of others who share the same kind of loneliness and problems. We have a gentleman in our group who has taken care of his wife for 16 years. (She suffers from Alzheimer's.)

We call our group "W.I.M.," which stands for "Women in the Middle." Anyone wanting information on how to start a W.I.M. group in his or her area should send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Women in the Middle Inc., P.O. Box 2811, Gadsden, Ala. 35903.

This group is not exclusively for women -- it's a support group for the entire family. We call ourselves "women" in the middle because caregiving -- the never-ending laundry, cooking, cleaning and nurturing that go along with caring for those who are unable to care for themselves -- has traditionally been the role of women. Please print this, Abby, and spread the word. -- CAROL J. HAMILTON, COLLINSVILLE, ALA.

DEAR CAROL: Your letter could not have been more timely. Congress has officially designated Nov. 24-30 as National Caregivers Week.

Thank you for alerting other caregivers that there is strength as well as comfort and camaraderie in organizing.

DEAR ABBY: I have been a church pastor for many years, during which time I have officiated at hundreds of weddings and attended almost as many wedding receptions. Some of these weddings are for non-church members who suddenly need a minister to marry them. I counsel them, rehearse them, conduct the ceremonies and remain for the pictures. So often, as they leave the church, they say, "By the way, Reverend, we'd love to have you and your wife come to our reception."

Abby, my wife and I agreed long ago to attend only receptions to which we had received formal invitations. I always decline such last-minute invitations graciously. I wonder why so many couples extend these verbal invitations to a wedding reception that had been planned months in advance? If we were sincerely wanted, why were we not sent an invitation in the mail like all the other folks who were properly invited in that fashion? -- ANONYMOUS PASTOR

DEAR PASTOR: I have heard from brides over the years who have said, "We'd really like to have our pastor and his wife attend our wedding reception, but we hesitate to mail them a formal invitation because it might look like we're fishing for a wedding gift."

However, having seen both sides of this sticky wicket, I am still of the opinion that the clergyperson officiating at weddings should be sent formal invitations.

- People are eating them up! For Abby's favorite recipes, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)