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She's relied on me for a decade. What do I do now?

(117 Posts)
Nelliemaggs Sun 22-Jan-17 17:59:26

I have looked out for my neighbour, MrsM, for 20 years, intensively for 10, shopped, cooked, ferried, accompanied to hospital appointments, visited her in hospital, tidied the garden and done my best to help when anything went wrong. She is 91 but clear headed and socially active in her church. She has always said how lucky she is to have such a good neighbour!.
Earlier in the week a car blocked my driveway and we had to fetch a cab for my nephew at 6.45am as I clearly couldn't drive him to the airport. Thoughtless people often park across our drive and I put my standard note on the car's windscreen pointing out what had been done and that it is a registered dropped kerb and they would be reported. It turned out to be MrsM's morning carer's car but I had no way of knowing that until the carer came to my door that afternoon.. We talked and I said she was welcome to park there now that I know the number of her car and where to find her. I also talked to my neighbour and all seemed well.
I hold MrsM's key and yesterday afternoon I let myself in to say I was going shopping and did she need anything and was shocked to hear her on the phone talking about me in very pejorative language, saying I was a liar and that I wrote a horrible note and nearly lost the carer her job and then she said, 'No wonder her husband left her". I was stunned, still am, and don't know where I go next. Do I let her know I heard her, which would have to be in writing as I can't bear to talk to her, or just keep away. I don't feel I can carry on doing everything for her any longer but she relies heavily on me when she isn't wellsad

Jane10 Sun 22-Jan-17 18:06:16

Oh Nelliemags what a dilemma. I can quite understand that you might just want to have nothing more to do with her. Can you quietly and calmly sit down with her and discuss this? Ask if that's what she really thinks about you? Maybe she only heard the carers version of the story but that's no excuse for what else she said about you.
Otherwise -she has carers. Let them care for her! Good luck.

aggie Sun 22-Jan-17 18:06:27

That was a shock for you ! Perhaps the carer didn't explain about the car properly and your Neighbour got the wrong end of the stick . If it was me I would try and calmly talk to her , sad to see an elderly woman getting it so wrong

Araabra Sun 22-Jan-17 18:08:12

Keep away and let it go.

Mair Sun 22-Jan-17 18:10:18

Firstly are you absolutely 110% sure it was you she was talking about?
Do you know for sure she isnt losing her marbles? Do you know the carer hasn't told her a lie about you (for some reason known only to herself)?
The fairest thing would be to tell her the truth, in person, and see what she says and if there is an explanation other than her being an ungrateful old bag! However I can understand if you feel you don't want to. Did you speak to her yesterday or just slip away?

MissAdventure Sun 22-Jan-17 18:39:50

How horrible for you.
I would say, however, that my mum would say things about me that were quite spiteful towards the end of her life.
However, this lady isn't related, so I would withdraw from her if I were you.

harrigran Sun 22-Jan-17 18:44:47

I would withdraw my services, she has carers who are being paid to care for her why should you provide free duplicate care.

Niobe Sun 22-Jan-17 18:51:09

My husband found himself in a similar position with an old couple who lived near us. He just quietly withdrew from helping them and it really was the best way. They had 3 daughters who lived nearby and were content to let someone else help their parents so we just told the old couple that some things were better dealt with by family.

Ana Sun 22-Jan-17 18:53:16

And make sure you give the key back with a witness.

Anya Sun 22-Jan-17 19:01:35

Yes, withdraw your help. Put the key in a bubble bag and post it back registered post or put it through her letterbox with a witness to that. No letter of explanation.

Take your own life back. She doesn't deserve you.

Christinefrance Sun 22-Jan-17 19:11:49

I think you should check first before taking any drastic steps, as Jane10 and aggie said maybe the carer gave her a different version of events. You would think though that having known you a long time and been helped such a lot the lady would defend you.
As she has help now perhaps it's a good time to reduce or stop the help you give.

aggie Sun 22-Jan-17 19:14:39

I feel sorry for both the old lady and Nelliemags , I still think I would hope to sort it out , but maybe not be such a willing message fetcher now that she has carers

Anya Sun 22-Jan-17 19:17:52

No matter what the carer said or didn't say there's no excuse for what was overheard, especially the remark about her husband. And she ought not to be discussing you in any terms with someone over the phone.

rosesarered Sun 22-Jan-17 19:20:14

I think that I would want to talk to her about the incident, and depending on her answers, take it from there. Saying what she did about your husband is pretty unforgivable.
Is she really grateful for your help I wonder?
20 years is a long time to be helpful to a neighbour, and as Mair says, make sure that she was talking about you on the phone ( sounds as if she was though).
If you are unhappy with her answers, then do as others suggest, and stop driving her around to appointments at the very least.
I came upon a similar situation to this some years ago, when I was in my thirties, we moved in next door to an old (mid sixties!) lady.On the other side lived a very nice
couple slightly younger than her.They seemed to do a lot for her, the husband did DIY
For her and helped out in her garden,the wife often took her shopping and to WI etc.
One day, having a coffee with her in my house, the 'old lady' confided to me that this couple were taking over her life and she thought them bored with each other, and helping her was one thing but she was getting fed up of them always popping round.
Well, I was amazed at this and thought how ungrateful some people really are, but it also made me think that you never really know how a neighbour regards you, on the one hand you think you are doing a good neighbourly thing, but maybe they don't think that at all and just take you for granted, or, in this case think that you really enjoy doing it!
I didn't say anything to the nice couple, although felt tempted to.

Swanny Sun 22-Jan-17 19:26:19

Nellie I am going against the flow here. First of all does your neighbour know by now you heard her conversation? If not I would put it down to her, at 91, speaking without thinking based on whatever the carer said to her.

Is she mobile in her own home? If so I would return her key and ring the doorbell next time you offer to help. Use whatever reason you want to gradually reduce your assistance, rather than cutting her off suddenly. If she is as clear headed as you say she will pick up on that and ask you if anything is wrong. You can then say calmly that you'd overheard that conversation and was hurt by what she said. It's then up to her to apologise and realise what she's in danger of losing. It would be a shame to lose a friendship due to a third party but at least you would have tried to sort it amicably.

Rinouchka Sun 22-Jan-17 19:33:15

If, after checking with the elderly neighbour, you ascertain that she was talking about you in this disparaging way, then you should clearly tell her that you are withdrawing your help.
As Ana and Anya have urged, return the key with a witness, end of story.

What a wonderful person you must be, Nelliemags. Hugs to you! flowers

Mair Sun 22-Jan-17 19:37:49

It would be a shame to lose a friendship due to a third party but at least you would have tried to sort it amicably

This raises a point we have all ignored. Does Nellie enjoy this ladies company, view her as a friend and gain something back from the relationship, or is it a burden she has taken on and would love to drop?

If the first, then it definitely worth giving her a chance to explain. If the second, then do as some have suggested, a witnessed return of the key, but I do think a note of explanation should be included.

Swannys slow escape seriously runs the risk that she will never let you go. She will not ask whats wrong, she may guess but will be far too embarrassed to raise it, and would nott want to, and may well be extra nice to you to make up making it harder than ever to break the ties.

Think what you want the resolution to be, and work towards that.

Nelliemaggs Sun 22-Jan-17 20:39:35

Thank you for all your advice. Sadly it was as I stepped in that I heard my name, spoken in a disparaging way. I should have turned tail but didn't know what was coming. She doesn't know that I overheard her conversation. After the husband leaving remark I turned and left. There was no doubt that she was talking about me.

After I had spoken to her carer, who is a lovely lady who I wave to when I see her, I had made a point of talking it through with MrsM who appeared to be quite happy with the outcome. I hadn't reported the car because an hour later it was gone in good time for me to take my grandson to the childminder so that wasn't an issue.

I can't say I enjoy her company at all as she has odd views such as that a woman should be subservient to her husband and I know she disapproves of my daughter being a single mother. I suppose I feel sorry for her because her sons are of little help and she, like me, has a daughter in Australia.

I think I would have got over the general nastiness but the remark about my husband was just so wrong and so unkind and I can't get it out of my head.
I imagine she is wondering why I didn't come round for a shopping list but my grandson, and now my daughter, have a norovirus type bug and I couldn't go shopping for her on Friday as I usually would, and as I had intended to explain to her yesterday.

rosesarered that was really interesting and made me think hard. But she rings when her TV does odd things and when she's out of bread and asks me to turn lights on and off when she is away and she used to phone every weekend to arrange to come shopping with me so most of the impetus came from her.

Perhaps I'm just a sucker but my mother lived seventy miles away and I was always so grateful for the kindnesses shown to her by her neighbours who would alert me when I needed to go over in addition to my weekly visits. It just seemed to be the right thing to do.

Devorgilla Sun 22-Jan-17 20:40:46

It's a tough one. Are you the neighbour closest to her in distance or are there others who look out for her too? If you are the one most likely to know if she was not following her usual routine, and that therefore something is amiss, I would be inclined to keep some contact but cut back. I think I would continue the shopping because you are going there anyway for yourself and at least you know she has something in to eat but perhaps cut back on cooking or accompanying her to appointments. Do what is best for you without putting her in danger. She has a carer who can call on extra help if needed. Do we still have 'Meals on Wheels'? If she questions why then tell her the truth and you feel you have been too 'in her face' for want of a better phrase and perhaps she would prefer to have her place to herself more. You have been a 'Good Samaritan' for a long time and that is to your credit but perhaps it is time to hand over the bulk to others.

Ana Sun 22-Jan-17 21:15:52

She asks you to turn lights on and off when she's away? Where does she go? confused

MissAdventure Sun 22-Jan-17 21:19:56

That's very tactful, Devorgilla. Probably the nicest way to go about it. My mum used 'oakhouse' foods, who also deliver groceries, so maybe that could be suggested.

Bellanonna Sun 22-Jan-17 21:40:43

You've been a great neighbour Nelliemaggs. In your position I would have to let her know what I overheard, and how upset I was. Tell her what particularly upset you, too. She will possibly be embarrassed, as indeed she should be. I don't think you can suddenly stop doing everything, but I would return the key to her, and then just deal with far fewer issues, such as picking up some shopping when you are doing yours. Maybe the occasional lift in the car. But not too much else. She really ought to have a panic button, the type worn around the neck, as this can go through to a centre who who could then notify you if she'd had a fall, for example. I would be very hurt by what you describe and would certainly want her to know that. All the best.

Rigby46 Sun 22-Jan-17 22:33:34

Nellie I'm so sorry to read this. I had a broadly similar situation and the 'betrayal' happened after about 20 years. Luckily she didn't live next door but I just couldn't face her again or forgive her. My solution was to immediately break off all contact and put the hurt away in a box - your post brought back a great many feelings I never dealt with properly. Only you can decide what is right for you to do - I knew I had to act as I did - I now just feel sad about it but for me the betrayal was such that I knew I couldn't carry on. Your very regular contact with her and your very physical proximity makes your situation much harder than mine - I wish I had some advice for you but all I can say is do what you can live with and care for yourself. You sound lovely.

Nelliemaggs Sun 22-Jan-17 23:43:05

Ana, she sometimes gets taken back to Wales or other holidays by family members and used to go with a local drop-in group on short holidays. These days she often ends up in hospital for a few days when she presses her care link thing.

Thanks for the nice things written. It has cheered me up considerably. I think I have got it in perspective now and will tell her the reason when she phones to ask me why I haven't been round for a shopping list! I think she will become suddenly very much deafer.

Sorry Rigby to resurrect bad memories. Funny how we bury these things and they jump back up and bite us.

Eloethan Mon 23-Jan-17 00:20:38

I do think this might be the result of becoming old and somewhat confused. I also tend to think that someone who reaches their 90's and beyond is perhaps better than others at looking out for themselves in terms of cultivating - and often taking advantage of - people who are particularly caring in character. I've also noticed that as some people get much older they become a lot less aware of the needs and feelings of others, and their feelings about people can fluctuate to accord with how useful those people are at any given time.

Having said all that, if it were me I would feel I had to say I'd overheard the remarks and felt very hurt about them.