Help! I Think I Made a Terrible Mistake When I Helped My Elderly Neighbor With Her Groceries.


Dear Prudence,

I moved into a new upstairs apartment five months ago. I made the mistake of helping my wheelchair-bound neighbor, “Stella,” with her groceries during my move. Stella had her bag break in the parking lot after she got off the bus. I put down my boxes and ran to help with her items and then put them up in her kitchen. Stella told me about how she was alone in the world and on a fixed income. I told Stella I would be happy to run to the grocery store for her since I go once a week. Stella calls me every day now. She has problems with her doctors, her bills, and for anything and everything, she calls me. I have tried to be kind and helpful—but now I need help.

I should have set firm boundaries earlier, but she is a little old lady, and I was lonely in a new city. But I am not her daughter or her granddaughter. I am okay with running to the grocery store or being an emergency contact or coming over for tea and a chat—but not this. Adult services are useless. Stella’s life isn’t in danger, and she had enough income to be disqualified from the majority of services. She isn’t cruel or abusive or mean. She is old, scared, and alone in the world. But she is suffocating me.

My mom died when I was young, and my dad left me to me raised by my grandfather while he went off to have a brand-new family with his mistress. My grandfather walked me down the aisle and died in his sleep four months later. My marriage didn’t make it a year since my husband cheated on me with his ex. Apparently bad taste in men is inheritable. Please don’t recommend therapy. It would be nice, but I can’t afford it, insurance doesn’t pay, and Stella is old, disabled, and alone. I don’t want to hurt her. Help!

— Deep End

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