I often have seniors tell me they’re able to still live in their homes because they have great neighbours who take them shopping, cut their lawns and help out with a multitude of other ‘little tasks.’
The families of these seniors also recognize the importance such wonderful neighbours have in allowing their parents to remain living in the family home.
These families know that if anything ever happened to their parents, the neighbours would be there.
On the flip side, I also receive calls from people saying that they do not want to be doing these things for the seniors.
The neighbours do care about the seniors, but if too many things are left for them to do to help out, they feel used.
Even if the families do not ask the neighbours to do any tasks, the neighbours often feel that they can’t remain a bystander.
Some things are a necessity and a family who does not live close by would not see this.
What was once an occasional favour has become an expectation and responsibility
As so often happens, the senior becomes dependant on one neighbour for assistance.
Often, seniors will tell neighbours about things that are bothering them, which they would not tell their families as they do not want to bother their families.
Sometimes, seniors will ask neighbours to do something that is quite a chore or time consuming, but the seniors don’t realize what a burden they are putting on someone else.
Neighbours often tell me that they don’t want the responsibility of caring for seniors because of the legal aspect if something goes wrong.
It’s time consuming to take the seniors grocery shopping or driving them to a doctor’s appointment.
Seniors tell me that their neighbours will check on them daily to ensure that they are OK.
However, the neighbours may not really want to have that responsibility because it’s something else to worry about when they go away on a vacation.
But how do you back out of helping seniors without hurting their feelings?
They want to know how to get the family to take on more of that responsibility.
The neighbours have their own lives to live and, quite possibility, may have their own elderly parents that require their care and attention.
When seniors can no longer live safely in their homes without someone needing to check on them, then it is time for the seniors to seriously investigate moving to supportive housing or using the services of a professional to take on the caring that is required.
Caring for seniors is the responsibility of families or professionals, not well-meaning neighbours.
Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.