QUESTION CAROLINE: I’m sick of taking care of my friends

If you have problems, email Caroline at  Caroline reads all of your letters, but unfortunately she can't reply to them one by one

If you have problems, email Caroline at  Caroline reads all of your letters, but unfortunately she can't reply to them one by one

If you have problems, email Caroline at [email protected]. Caroline reads all of your letters, but unfortunately she can’t reply to them one by one

I’m sick of taking care of my friend

Q A friend in her 60s became ill many years ago and as a result she feels anxious and unsafe being alone. She is single, has no family. Although her doctor believes she will be cured, she insists that she needs someone by her side at all times – at her house or when she goes to a friend’s house. Over the years, several of her friends and I had rota surgery, where she stayed with each of us for a week or two at a time. She doesn’t drive and lives a few miles away. I would rather her stay with me than visit her because I prefer to be in my own home. Recently, she has started asking to stay more often. I think some friends had enough and dropped out. I tried to be sympathetic, but any suggestions I made about how she could help herself – like joining a club or group – were brushed aside. I offered her to pay a carer to stay overnight, which she could afford, but she didn’t want strangers in her home. She will not consider moving to sheltered accommodation. My husband and I are over 70 years old; he has heart problems and we both have arthritis. We want to enjoy the rest of our time together, without having to worry or feel responsible for anyone else. We raised our children, elderly and sick parents were raised and now help the grandchildren. We feel that any spare time should be ours. It has been going on for several years now with no end in sight. Am I selfish?

She would rather stay with us than live alone and have someone to take care of

ONE Like you, I feel very sorry for her. She clearly doesn’t cope well with life. But no, I don’t think you’re being selfish. You, your husband and her other friends have taken good care of her for a long time. In many ways, she is taking advantage – though not intentionally – and has developed a ‘learnable helplessness’, expecting others to solve her problems instead of solving them herself. This situation needs to change. You and your husband have worked hard and cared for others over the years and now deserve some time for yourself. It won’t be easy, but you need to talk to your friend about reducing the number of visits – perhaps because of your health and getting tired of receiving frequent visitors. She offers helpful suggestions – which may include counseling or medication to manage anxiety – which is not fair to you. If she has enough money, there are many options, including a carer or a housekeeper for the company. Someone is just a stranger until you get to know them! Of course, you don’t have to stop seeing her completely – and I’m sure you don’t – but you can cut her visits down to three or four short stays a year. When she complains, tell her – gently but firmly – that she can learn to enjoy living on her own. You can offer to help find a good care agency, retirement village or homestay through a home-sharing program. She may find that a more independent life is more satisfying and better for her self-worth. Be assertive and set your needs higher. You deserve your own time.

Should I block my abusive brother?

Q My brother has been spoiled since childhood – he is now an angry 42-year-old man with alcoholism who is still being helped financially by my parents. I fight for money and am a single mother, but I have always been independent. When he’s drunk, he sends terrible emails to me or others, many of whom he’s broken up with. He bullied my mother, who was also dealing with my father’s dementia. It is stressing us out. I do not know what to do. How is it possible? I prevent him from contacting me?

ONE Your brother is looking down on you and taking advantage of your mother’s goodwill. It must be grieving. It will be very difficult to stop him from contacting you altogether unless you implement a sexual harassment ban ( can provide information on this). However, this would be an extreme measure and could cause more problems for your mother. Both of you need help fighting his bullying. So please contact, which supports families and friends of problem drinkers, and, who can give you further advice. Your mother has clearly been opposed by your brother, so empowering her to say no to him will help. Try not to read his abusive emails. If he harasses you by phone or text, hang up or block him temporarily. Your brother needs help too, but I hope that you and your mother have gone down that road many times. Regarding your father, please contact, as your mother may need further assistance.

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