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Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:16 PM

Elderly neighbor becoming more and more demanding

We've lived here just over one year, and we've become friends with our neighbors, most of whom are 70+ years old.

The neighbor in question is about 82 and is fairly active. She lives at home by herself & goes to visit her sister in a nearby nursing home each night. On the whole she's quite friendly and nice to have as a neighbor. But...


She thinks nothing at all of assigning tasks for my wife and me. It started as little things, like "next time you're at the grocery store, could you get me a gallon of milk?" but over time has escalated to calls at 8:30PM asking me to get her a pack of bologna from that same store. No single task is, in itself, particularly onerous, but in the aggregate they're really starting to become annoying, and I can't help feeling taken advantage of.

She has already tasked me with driving ~15 miles out of my way to pick up a bracelet for her, and she routinely calls me to drive her to see her sister when her usual ride falls through. Typically this comes at about 6:00PM, right after we start dinner.

She's had me move furniture for her, take out an air conditioner, and cut a small limb from the tree in her back yard. She'll also frequently call to tell me that she has a cardboard box for me, for "the next time you go to the recycling place." Last night she wanted me to go across the street to fix a storm door for yet another neighbor. This was while I was making dinner for our kids while my wife was sick in bed! And today I drove her to a holiday party at her sister's nursing home! These are just a few of the many and frequent tasks that she sets for me, and I haven't even gotten into her assignments for my wife.

What do I do? If I decline to perform any of these tasks, even for perfectly legitimate reasons, she immediately lays on the guilt trip. And honestly I don't want her giving herself a heart attack by trying to move her porch swing. At the same time, I don't want to be at her beck and call, nor do I want to be made to feel like an asshole when I tell her no. And if I do tell her no, I'm confident that I would immediately become known as the guy who didn't help out his elderly neighbor.

I should disclaim that I'm not interested in "pay it forward" scenarios, nor do I believe that I'm investing in my own karma.
How do I extricate myself from this situation without tagging myself as a selfish jerk?

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Reply Elderly neighbor becoming more and more demanding (Original post)
Orrex Dec 2012 OP
ohiosmith Dec 2012 #1
Orrex Dec 2012 #2
leftyohiolib Dec 2012 #4
ohiosmith Dec 2012 #5
seabeyond Dec 2012 #3
IdaBriggs Dec 2012 #6
NJCher Dec 2012 #34
Grantuspeace Dec 2012 #7
OriginalGeek Dec 2012 #10
rug Dec 2012 #8
Forrestted Dec 2012 #9
LeftofObama Dec 2012 #11
nolabear Dec 2012 #12
trof Dec 2012 #13
dixiegrrrrl Dec 2012 #26
pipi_k Dec 2012 #14
NV Whino Dec 2012 #15
Mr.Bill Dec 2012 #16
mrmpa Dec 2012 #17
MrMickeysMom Dec 2012 #18
KT2000 Dec 2012 #19
Major Nikon Dec 2012 #20
Ikonoklast Dec 2012 #39
Major Nikon Dec 2012 #40
Orrex Dec 2012 #21
Frosty1 Dec 2012 #43
merrily Dec 2012 #22
LWolf Dec 2012 #23
Orrex Dec 2012 #27
orleans Dec 2012 #32
Orrex Dec 2012 #36
orleans Dec 2012 #42
valerief Dec 2012 #24
Kaleva Dec 2012 #25
Arugula Latte Dec 2012 #28
madinmaryland Dec 2012 #29
Orrex Dec 2012 #38
crim son Dec 2012 #30
Rex Dec 2012 #31
2Design Dec 2012 #33
Taitertots Dec 2012 #35
Orrex Dec 2012 #37
kwassa Dec 2012 #41
animal-girl Dec 2012 #44

Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:31 PM

1. Just me,...but I'd rather be known as a selfish jerk than a sap! If her requests/demands are not

reasonable or convenient I'd just say "sorry I can't". If you have caller ID don't pick up when she calls. If you have an answering machine let it pick up. She can only guilt trip you if you allow it.

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Response to ohiosmith (Reply #1)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:36 PM

2. Should have mentioned the calling

If she calls and we don't answer, she calls back. Until we answer.

If we don't answer, she comes over and shouts to us from our walkway.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:56 PM

4. when she stands in the driveway shouting it's time to turn the hose on her

we had a neighbor like that actually the wife and the hubby are like that, she kept calling for us to drive her places when we didnt answer she'd come over. i once came up from the basement and she was standing in our back room. she called then came over and rang the doorbell when i didnt answer she went around backk and let herself in looking for me.
her husband everytime he does anything around the house < which lucky for me is rare, he would come over and ask for stuff. he needed to replace his license plate 1st he needed wd40 then came back asking for a screwdriver.
finally we started just saying no, no icant , no idont etc

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Response to Orrex (Reply #2)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:56 PM

5. I'd tell her that we don't answer the phone or door before 9:00 am or after 5:30 pm. And that you

will only help her out if it does not interfere with your family time and is convenient.

I went through a situation like this in SoCal with a couple of elderly neighbors. They eventually got the hint.

Good luck.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 02:49 PM

3. you are a nice man orrex. i am sorry she is taking advantage of you.

she is in her 80's so wont be forever.

boundaries.

sick wife and cooking dinner. no, i am sorry but i cannot do this for you tonight. i am cooking dinner for kids, homework, bed and wife sick.

airconditioning or home repair? cant do it now, but saturday i will have free time.

stand firm. and boundaries. cant, do not want to do something, .... a firm no, sorry.

do what you are willing to do, when you can do it without inconveniencing yourself and the others, say no...

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 03:02 PM

6. You are becoming resentful because it isn't a two way street.

Next time ask for the payback. For example, "I would be happy to do that. Would you mind coming over and fixing dinner for the sick wife and kids while I take care of that?" If the answer is no, then regretfully you can't. If the answer is yes, you have a relationship.

Pick half a dozen things she can do that you would feel appreciative about if someone else took care of them. For example, does your home have a pile of mending? Head on over to the lady who probably knows how to put buttons on. Do your kids need some costumes worked on? Send them over! Need a babysitter for the evening while you and the wife head out? Ask her to come watch the kids (for free). And hey, don't you and the wife need to get some stuff for the kids? Why not send them over for an afternoon this weekend to bake cookies with her while you take care of prepping for the holidays!

Seriously, you have an opportunity here - take advantage of it! When someone is always asking for help, it means either they are a "taker" or they are lonely/want to give.

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Response to IdaBriggs (Reply #6)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:17 AM

34. very wise post

eom



Cher

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:18 PM

7. I was surrounded by cute little old ladies in my neighborhood.

I would pick things up from the store. Take junk out, shovel snow. Then they all died. Many of the houses became rentals and the neighborhood turned over 3 or 4 maybe 5 generations. Enjoy your elderly neighbors. If they get to be too much politely offer an excuse.

They might be a pain in the ass.....but a bunch of snotty teenagers is worse! Lol

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Response to Grantuspeace (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:34 PM

10. "Snotty teenagers" made me lol

mostly because it's true.


And I agree with the others too, Orrex - you gotta set the boundaries...Personally, and many will attest, I have no problem being thought of as the ass. I suppose it's also possible to decline politely though.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:24 PM

8. Wait her out.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:28 PM

9. Golden Rule: Always Respect Your Elders

 

Go To The Freaking Store!!!

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:35 PM

11. Since you already know she's going to call

just be prepared with an excuse. Eventually she'll get the hint.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 04:47 PM

12. Some good advice here. Set a boundary you can both live with.

I'd let her know you can pick up a couple things for her if you're going out but that you can't do it on short notice, etc. you can be a good guy without being a function rather than a person.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 05:11 PM

13. There's a limit, my man, and I think you're WAY past it.

Had a similar situation, except she wasn't that old.
She was in her late 60s.
I'm 71.
She's divorced and was always calling on guys in the neighborhood for help with one thing or another.
Never reciprocated.
Never did anything in return.
We shut her off.
Just said "No."
Most of the stuff she could hire somebody to do it.
She had the means.
She was a selfish bitch (which is why her long suffering husband finally bailed).
Try just one "Fuck Off!"
That'll do it.

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Response to trof (Reply #13)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:51 PM

26. ahhh Trof...you KNOW there are nicer "southern" ways of saying no.

"I would just love to do that for you, but won't be free until next Wed"

We have a 85 y/o widow neighbor who is very sweet but had a bad habit of wanting to be driven to the ER or doc's office every time she had a palpitation, any hour of the day or night she would call me, looking and actiong like death warmed over, then she she would then call on her daughter and son who live in other towns up north and inform them she was at death's door, and of course they would drop everything and fly to be at her bedside.
And she had good insurance so the dr. was happy to keep her in hospital for "observation".

I had to sadly tell her, after a year of this, that the new meds the doc put me on made it impossible to drive at night and made me too groggy in the am until after noon.
worked like a charm.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 05:47 PM

14. Wait a second...

You say you've only been there about a year.

WTF did she do before you came along?


anyway, I'm probably not a nice person for saying this, but I would refuse to answer the phone, and if she came over and yelled out in the street or driveway I would ignore it.

PS...Not that I wouldn't try to help out a neighbor, but it sounds like she's getting out of hand.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 07:13 PM

15. Set boundaries

You can run errands during certain hours on a certain day.
You will do certain things, but won't do others.
You are available by phone only during certain hours.
And, as mentioned up thread, ask for something in return.

Also tell her you will help her find a handy man or someone to run errands or provide transportation.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 07:34 PM

16. Get her some brochures

to assisted living facilities.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 09:48 PM

17. I live in a Condo...........

and @ 56, the youngest owner on my floor. Next to me is a young woman who rents. How does she earn her money? She drives the elderly to appointments, or shopping or whatever they need.

My mother used her once, when none of us 3 kids or 4 grandkids were available to take her to the Doctors..

I would look at the community board at a grocery store, library, or wherever and give the neighbor the information on a person who does this type of service.

Let her know, that when you go grocery shopping, you'll check with her to see if she needs anything.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Thu Dec 20, 2012, 10:02 PM

18. Okay, time draw the line, regardless of her age...

She knows what she is doing, and she needs to have a face to face discussion from you and your wife. She may be incensed, but she'll get over it. Meanwhile, you're going to tell her that being a good neighbor includes mutual respect. Provide definite times she may check in with you, but nothing outside that time. Ask her if she remembers what it was like to have a young family. She can't have erased from memory.

She's using you and she knows it. You're a nice neighbor, so this is only hard ONCE. Then, you'll be happy you did.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 03:10 AM

19. What mrmpa said

I have had to do this myself. I was dedicating a lot of time helping someone that I really cared about. Another person started asking me to do things and there was no way I could take her on too. I got a few contacts for people who did this for a living and gave them to her.
You could explain that you don't mind doing things here and there but not as much has been happening. Then give her the other options. Sending you to another person's house to make repairs really crosses the line.
You have to do something like this because it looks like it will just get worse.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 03:12 AM

20. Tell her you're having an orgy this weekend and she's invited

Request that she bring as much wesson oil as she can spare.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #20)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:14 PM

39. And what if she smiles and asks, "What time, sweetie?".

"Do you mind if I bring my Gin Rummy Club along? They do get so lonely, you know."

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Response to Ikonoklast (Reply #39)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:35 PM

40. You deal the cards, you takes yer chances

There's always the possibility of learning something new.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 06:11 PM

21. Tonight she called...

To see if she had left a photo on our porch when she dropped off the newspaper. We don't really want the paper, but shedoesn't want to recycle or throw it out, so she"lets us read it" when she's done with it.


I checked on the porch, and no photo. I looked through the paper, and it wasn't there either. Sorry, neighbor.

"So you don't think you have it?" she asked.

About ten minutes later she called back to tell me that she'd found the photo.

"So you can stop looking," she said seriously.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #21)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 12:30 PM

43. Sounds like she's lonely

n/t

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:00 PM

22. Well....

These are rhetorical questions that are more in the way of suggestions. I am not actually looking for answers.

Does she have enough money to hire some teen to do her errands?

On the flip side, does she have little enough money to qualify for a homemaker who could help her out?

Does your town have an elder services office you can call to see what may be available for her besides you

Does she have relatives who can help?


Bottom line: you have to draw the lines. I am a direct person and would tell her straight up that I don't mind picking up an item for her if and when I am going to the store for my own needs, but I will not be doing more than that going forward. You don't owe her any explanations either. If she asks why, just say it is not anything you wish to discuss and, anyway, you are pressed for time (none of us ever has plenty of time, right?).

If she gives you a guilt trip, it is really up to you to decline the ticket. She can try all she wants, but she really cannot make you feel guilty. Only you can do that.

Oh, and ask her please not to leave the paper anymore. Then she can't accidentally leave anything on your porch or convince herself that the relationship is one of reciprocal favors.

This may seem harsh, but I think it is far kinder than making endless excuses and hoping she catches on. And more respectful, too. Then again, as I said, I usually tend to favor the more truthful approach. I could be wrong.





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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:28 PM

23. Do you know any of her family?

It might be useful to have their phone number so you could talk to them about her increasing needs, and forward her requests on.

My mom, 74, asks for a lot of help. It costs a lot to pay someone to come out to the house and fix smaller things. She will tend to ask neighbors first, since I'm 50 miles away and they are next door or across the street.

Still, she's not frivolous. She still operates her own chain saw and wood splitter, and does more by herself than the average old lady. She'll be moving in with me sometime in the coming years; we've discussed it, and the door is open when she is ready.


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Response to LWolf (Reply #23)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:47 PM

27. A good thought, but no

Her sister's in the aforementioned care home, and her daughter lives 30 miles away.

As a matter of fact, she has a larger social circle than we do! If I had to guess, I'd say that on some level she thinks she's doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to be neighborly.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #27)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 11:51 PM

32. i was thinking she sounds lonely

a lot of the stuff sounds like little unnecessary bullshit and she's just craving contact

if her social circle consists of a sister visit in the evenings and bingo a couple times a week it's not the greatest social circle. plus you have the wife and kids to fill your lulls. she has scheduled visits.

i think she's lonely.

?

invite her over for new years eve eggnog. maybe the kids could acquire another grandma!

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Response to orleans (Reply #32)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:58 AM

36. Tell you what: *You* invite her over.

As I mentioned, her social circle is far larger than ours. I don't know if she even plays bingo, but she's out and about with friends seven days a week. If she's lonely, it's not for lack of friends and companions.

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Response to Orrex (Reply #36)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 02:40 AM

42. lol! okay--so maybe i'm wrong. n/t

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:41 PM

24. Just say no. You can thank Nancy Reagan for that. nt

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 07:50 PM

25. Every time she calls, ask her to do a little favor for you.

Think of tasks she could handle and are fairly legitmate. When she calls about a cardboard box for you to bring to the recylcing center, ask her if she'd mine storing hers AND yours (make sure you actually have some) at her place till you can go. Give the excuse you are running out of room or something like that.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 08:52 PM

28. Maybe call her on Sunday night and tell her you're planning your week.

Last edited Sat Dec 22, 2012, 04:48 PM - Edit history (1)

Tell her if she needs you to pick something up at the store you'll need to know in advance, that your life has become hard to manage and you're going to need advance notice for requests.

Edited to say: Then when she pops a last-minute request on you, you can say: "Remember last Sunday I told you I have to have advance notice?" You can take the high ground with her -- it becomes her fault, not yours, that you can't accommodate her.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 10:15 PM

29. I didn't realize you were that old! Which retirement home do you and your wife live in??



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Response to madinmaryland (Reply #29)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 01:00 AM

38. We're at the Tranquil Rest of Why Don't You Shut The Hell Up!

And you're a stinker.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 10:47 PM

30. My sister went through what you're describing.

Being kind and generous she put up with the situation for about a year before realizing she was being used. Her response was to say no, not always but often, when the request was not for something essential. She ignored the guilt trip response and over time the requests diminished and interestingly, she and the old guy in question became good friends. He died last year and she truly grieved. It's good of you to understand and be responsive to the needs of a shut-in, but I wonder if she is truly without any other resources. Even if not she must be as considerate of you as you are of her. Dinnertime calls are unacceptable and you should have no qualms about declining to answer the phone. If it's an emergency she will leave a message, I'm certain.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Fri Dec 21, 2012, 11:15 PM

31. Well first off remember that you are not

a selfish jerk and actually nice for helping her out. I don't know what to say. Can she hire a handy man? Sounds like she needs help getting around and is relying on you.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:02 AM

33. tell her a price per month to continue as gofer person or she has to stop asking

it is a matter of setting boundaries - find someone who can help you in setting boundaries and explaining to her she is way over normal boundaries

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:31 AM

35. Helping people who are unable to help themselves is the highest moral calling in life

Are you worried that other people will think you are a selfish jerk, or that you will know that refusing to help the needy with trivial tasks would make you a selfish jerk?

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Response to Taitertots (Reply #35)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 12:59 AM

37. I've done enough already that even if I never speak to her again, I won't qualify as a selfish jerk

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Sat Dec 22, 2012, 09:57 PM

41. Just say no.

You are not setting boundaries of what you are willing or not willing to do. Saying no is not being selfish, you are saying yes to her selfishness.

Be polite, be reasonable, and be willing to say no. You are neither family nor a close friend and bear no responsibility to her other than what you chose to have.

If she has no available friends or family, then there are other services for seniors around. You have no other obligation than the one you choose to have. She has no power other than the power you give her.

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Response to Orrex (Original post)

Sun Dec 23, 2012, 02:04 PM

44. I feel your pain

Orrex: I am new to this site and yours was one of the first post I read. I also live in a 55+ neighborhood, I am 64 and young for my age, I am seen as the "young lady" on the street. This seems to make requests (demands) okay for some reason. It starts small and soon your raising them as your own. I have found that there is no easy way to end the parasitic relationship, you choose your battles and decide what you are willing to do. If your consistent you will find that the requests start to tapper off. If you don't need to be best friends with this lady, let her know up front that you are not available to run all her errands. It takes a strong backbone but in the end you won't be feeling so resentful. Good Luck!

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