I have a friend, Pat, who's 76. Don't tell her I told you. She has a disability that makes it difficult for her to get around well and her vision's failing. Not fast, thank goodness -- she's still able to drive. She lives alone in an apartment here in the big urban center she's lived in all her life.
Pat's been ill for over a month. She had a kind of flu virus that turned into a more serious sinus and lung infection of some kind. She didn't tell anyone how sick she really was. When I called her a couple of weeks ago, she said she'd rather die than go on living like this. A series of phone calls got her a prescription for antibiotics and now she seems to be on the mend, slowly.
Through all this, I've offered help in a number of ways. While she did let me pick up her prescriptions, she refused to let me buy her groceries. "Do not bring me groceries or I swear I won't let you help me again!" I did anyway, but I knew I was taking a big risk. I always know I'm walking a fine line with Pat and I find it nerve-wracking: How far do I push her? Do I ignore what she says and do what I think is best? That's something I try to avoid, loving self-determination as I do. Do I follow her instructions and let her possibly go hungry and/or let medical problems worsen? It's a no-win, really.
This is just Pat's way: She refuses ALL offers of help and pretends things are a lot better than they actually are. I think it's partly a generational thing. People of her age, especially women, seem to believe it's impolite to allow others to help, even when the need is dire. But when nobody cares enough to ignore them -- to take care of them even when they say they need no help, they feel hurt.
So today I asked my mom's advice. I explained the situation, how Pat won't let me take her groceries, tells me everything's fine when it isn't, and so on. I asked, "What would YOU do, Mom?"
"Well, I think I'd take her some nice soup."
So there you go.