Dear Harry: My mother-in-law has been in a nursing home for the last two years at a cost of about $8,000 a month. So far, the cost is no problem because her husband had substantial life insurance. Recently, her engagement ring (which she says she never took off) has gone missing. It's worth several thousand dollars. She would not let us hold it for her. We complained to the administrator and got nowhere. He explained that other residents could have stolen it as well as the home's personnel. We later found out that the home's hiring practice is to accept virtually every applicant because it pays minimum-wage levels to most of the aides. That leads to high turnover, too. We also discovered that others have had things stolen but not anything so valuable as her ring. Someone has to be responsible here. What do you suggest?

What Harry says: This is a problem that many nursing homes have, even the good ones. My sister is a resident of one where it is not uncommon for small things to sprout wings. I volunteer at another nursing home in the distant suburbs, and it also has this problem, but to a lesser extent. Watches and rings are very common missing items along with clothing. Of course, it's always possible that your mother-in-law does not remember that she took off the ring before it was missing, and it found its way into the trash bin. My legal eagles think that suing the home is not too likely to be a winning gambit because of the possibility of her losing the ring, as well as the possibility that another resident got to it. However, it is not a bad idea to check with your lawyer before accepting the loss.

Write Harry Gross c/o the Daily News, 400 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19130. Harry urges all his readers to give blood - contact the American Red Cross at 800-GIVE LIFE.