When there is a crisis local friends, neighbors, faith community members and distant relatives usually come out to help with gusto. A call for dinner for someone experiencing a health crisis can lead to a freezer full of casseroles that will take months to eat. Requests for transportation to treatments can result in multiple people available at the same time.

That is until they can’t help anymore.

Most people are very willing to help those they know and like in a crisis. When they are asked to do that same act repeatedly over weeks or months. that kindness can grow into resentment. 

Here is an example. Your husband falls out of bed in the middle of the night. Instead of calling EMS again, a neighbor is asked to come over and help get him up. He obliges. After a few weeks of having to get out of bed in the middle of the night three times a week for a month, he refuses. The neighbor can’t get a good night’s sleep and his back is killing him from lifting a 160 lb. man.

You are now left with a problem. You have to resort to calling 911 again and your neighbor with whom you had a warm relationship is now cold and looks the other way when he sees you.

How much is too much to ask? It depends on how much disruption there is to a person’s life and how often that disruption occurs. Getting a few things at the grocery store once or twice for a month is not a problem. If you are expected to be given a ride by your friend every week, that puts a strain on them. What if they are going away and don’t need groceries? What if they just want to pick up a few things and don’t want to come right back home?

When will kindness turn to resentment?

Ask yourself what you would tolerate. Most of us do not want to be someone’s unpaid servant several times a week for more than a month. I believe asking anything more than two to three times a month and for more than a month is asking too much, if it involves any inconvenience. Don’t think that because your friends are retired they have plenty of time to help. This is their retirement that they have earned. Whether they take care of grandchildren a few times a week or like to walk daily your needs will interfere with those activities.

After a few weeks, if a crisis doesn’t pass you will need to hire someone to do the things you got from your friend free of charge or consider moving to a facility with services such as independent or assisted living. If you can afford it you should pay. If you cannot, you may be eligible for low or no cost services. Contact your local Area on Aging. Look into paid services before your friend refuses and may literally leave you stranded on your bedroom floor.