Question: We have an elderly neighbor who is fiercely independent. She’s 85, still drives, does her own shopping, and cleans her house, even though she can afford a housekeeper. Her problem is she’s not steady on her feet and often falls when she’s carrying groceries into her house, even though we’ve offered each time we’ve seen her carrying the groceries. Obviously when we’ve seen her fall, we rush over to help her, only to get scolded and be told, “Don’t treat me like an old lady!”
In the last couple of weeks, she’s fallen at least four times. Her children are married with families and live nearby and they check on her often. We’ve talked to them and asked if together we could coax her into letting us help her. Although they know about her frequent falls, they haven’t done anything. We feel that we just can’t stand by and watch this keep happening.
Is this none of our business? We’ve lived next to her for 15 years and, to us, she is family even though she can be crotchety.
Dear Concerned Neighbors,
All of us want to remain independent as long as possible. It helps us keep a “young” attitude and remain more vital. Unfortunately, as we age, physical health and safety become an issue. Your concern is well-founded and very caring. You’ve taken the first step by talking to her children. I’ve got to believe that they are as concerned about their mother as you are. They may have already talked to her, but been rebuffed by her “fierce” independence.
God’s Word admonishes us to take care of the widows and orphans (James 1:27). So it may be time for you to go to her directly. She may be more receptive at a time when she’s not struggling or has just fallen. Your offer of help can be presented to “honor” your neighbor rather than to “rescue” her.
The first and most important part of the conversation would be to say “We love having you as a neighbor and think of you as family.” Then, as her neighbors and extended family, you would like to see her be able to live in her house as long as possible. The last thing you want is for her to fall, sprain or break something and have to give up her home completely. Thirdly, you’d like to honor her by offering to do some “simple” tasks around her house and yard to foster her independence, which could include carrying groceries, mowing her lawn, watering plants, etc. You might ask what she’d appreciate you doing for her as a way of saying thanks for being such a good neighbor. One thing you could suggest is, if she will let you know when she’s going to the store, being on the lookout for her when she comes back to help carry her groceries from the car to the house.
Your neighbor may have a hard time accepting help graciously. So don’t be surprised if she initially refuses. However, your repeated offers should eventually have an effect on her. Having neighbors like you is a blessing. Hopefully your neighbor will come to appreciate this.
Blessing to you,
Pastor Dabney Beck
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Dear Concerned Neighbors,
First, let me say how kind it is that you are concerned about your neighbor. Keeping an eye out for our more vulnerable citizens is something I think we all can participate in. I have church members who are good neighbors and who appreciate their good neighbors.
Second, I hear your concern to not be intrusive or insistent on helping, but I wonder if your neighbor may have other issues on her mind, like a fear of losing her independence, health changes, etc. These are not easily addressed when you are helping her up after a fall, but I might suggest finding time to talk to her at a time when she is able to have a bigger conversation about what is going on.
Lastly, you may not realize how timely this question is. This week is National Falls Prevention Week to increase awareness of the risk for falls as we age. The CDC reports that one in three adults over age 65 will fall and it is the leading cause of death. By age 85, adults are 10-15 times more prone to hip fractures than people ages 60-65. Half of those will never regain full mobility and 20% will die. So the good news is something can be done to prevent that (http://www.cdc.gov/nicpc/factsheets/falls.htm).
Those who have concerns about falling should talk to their doctor about their experiences with falling or problems with balance. That is the time to discuss changes in breathing, vision, medications, sleep patterns, depression or any problems with loss of feeling or swelling in the legs and feet. Each of those are risk factors for falls. Another important factor is muscle weakness that can be improved with exercise, especially those that include balance components.
As a way of advertising, our church has partnered with the YMCA of the Foothills to provide fall prevention classes for our community. The classes address the fear of falling and provide individual assessments for each participant’s balance needs, along with supervised balance exercises. The classes started Tuesday, Sept. 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church, 2700 Montrose Ave. in Montrose. The fee for the eight-week session is $47. Register at the door.
It is never too early to start working on our balance for our health. I have found the resources mentioned above as helpful in building the muscles that help me stay balanced. There are others programs like this one, so maybe you could attend one with your neighbor.
Bottom line is your neighbor has to decide what is best for her and her health. I pray you will find a way of connecting her to the resources that will keep her well and balanced.
Rev. Steve Poteete-Marshall
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
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Question: I just found out quite accidentally that my husband of 24 years is a bigamist. I should have guessed something was going on because he was traveling a lot to the Midwest, where I have family near St. Louis, Missouri. My cousin saw my husband with another woman at a restaurant and he introduced her as a work associate. My cousin discreetly took a picture of them, and sent it to me.
When I confronted my husband, he told me he had met this woman and continued seeing her when he traveled and often met up with her in other cities where he traveled for his work. He didn’t tell her he was married and he said he was getting in over his head and didn’t know what to do, so he “married” her eight years ago. We have two children, both in college, and he and the woman do not have any children. He’s repentant and says he wants to stay married to me and he promises to tell the other woman it’s over. Obviously I’m very upset and have shed a lot of tears over this situation. My parents think I should leave him. I won’t tell our children until I make a decision.
Can you help me sort this out?
Dear Devastated Wife,
You have a right to be devastated! You have been betrayed by your husband of 24 years! Not only did he cheat on you but he also married her because he felt he was in over his head! What!? Does he know bigamy is against the law?
Anyway, you have two choices here and each one involves professional help. You can stay with him and try to forgive him, which to me would be very difficult considering the offense, but can be done through prayer, marriage counseling and a good family attorney to deal with the bigamy issues and the other wife. Ask yourself, “Will I ever be able to trust him again?”
You can also leave him. Since your children are grown it would be easier than if they were little. But again, you would need a good attorney. And certainly prayer and counseling would be advisable to get over the sense of shock and betrayal. You are still young enough to create a new life that is fulfilling and filled with people who love and respect you.
Carolyn Young, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
According to the facts as you state them, your husband was not only deceitful, but showed a complete lack of respect for your marriage vows and you have every right to be devastated. It seems he did something inexcusable, hurting you and your entire family. I truly believe forgiveness is essential but it is meant to heal your heart, not excuse such actions. It is also a way to acknowledge that someone may have done something wrong because they are in pain and he may be truly repentant. But forgiving does not at all mean accepting criminal behavior or doing nothing when someone takes advantage of you, your trust and your love.
It would be one thing if your husband had a quick tryst and was honest with you right away. This too would have certainly been wrong but, depending on the circumstances, your relationship could more likely have been salvaged. However, cheating on you, keeping a relationship going for eight years, committing the crime of bigamy and keeping these things completely hidden from not only you but your children demonstrates absolute lack of regard for those he supposedly loved. He not only lied to you but the other woman as well. On top of everything, it sounds like he never would have come clean had you not found out about his transgressions. To do these things, a person has to have very serious issues and the fact that these issues have not revealed themselves to you until now does not bode well either.
To be fair, I do not know the details of your relationship. There are 24 years of history and you also have children, so there are many things to consider, not the least of which I am aware.
To begin sorting this out, I think you must talk to your children about what they feel and think. If they want a relationship with their father, you should respect that but they need to be aware of what he has done and is capable of doing. They also may have some valuable insight and advice.
Secondly, if I were in your place, based on the facts listed here, I would take my parents’ advice and leave him while encouraging him to get immediate help. However, I am not you and do not know either of you personally or all the facts of the situation so it would be irresponsible for me to tell you what to do other than definitely seek help from a professional marriage counselor immediately.
As a humanist, I believe we cannot give up entirely on any human and, even if you leave him, compassion is always essential.
Joshua Lewis Berg