Why do people offer to help and then back down when asked?

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I'm an only child caring for an elderly mother with moderate dementia. It's a very tough road to go alone and I have many times had friends ask what they can do to help. I have never felt comfortable accepting their offers of help; it always just seemed like too much to ask of non-family. Recently, a good friend pressed me several times on the issue and mentioned her work schedule was changing and that she would be free in the afternoons and what could she do to help, etc. I have been struggling with the need to have someone meet my mom when she gets transported home from day care 2 days a week, just to get her in the house and settled, and thought I had found my solution. The time commitment would literally be 20 minutes twice a week. When I proposed it to my friend, and even said I would compensate her for her time and adjust my mom's schedule to fit hers, she hesitated and said she would "think about it." Knowing her, I can tell the issue won't come up again. It took a lot for me to ask for this help (which she knows) and I'm frustrated and hurt that this was her reaction. I would rather that she had never made an offer at all as it now seems so hollow. Has anyone else had this type of experience with non-family members offering help and then backing outt? I realize that there is no obligation here, but what she did seems very callous and I'm having a hard time moving beyond it. Am I overreacting?

43 Comments

I would feel hurt also, but I think when people offer to help, they probably are not thinking of a commitment that is regular and ongoing. Even though the time is not long, it would require her to work her activities around it, without an end in sight.
I have had this happen to me a number of times. The old adage; "The Road to hell is paved with good intentions' is applicable here; figuratively speaking not literally.
Mt son who is a Psychologist said that people often back out after the "sleep on it."
Someone may have told them if something goes wrong they may be held liable or perhaps knowing your hesitancy to allow anyone to care for your mother in the past prompted them to "offer" to help figuring you would turn them down but you didn't and they really were hoping that you would. If they are good friends what harm would it do to simply ask why they changed their minds? You can do this tactfully and assure them you have their trust and can be assured that should something go wrong you would never hold them accountable and you would be more than happy to put this in writing. Maybe you hurt their feelings by offering to compensate them for their good will. Most likely someone outside of your circle frightened them or said something like : Once you help her she will be expecting it more often. I have learned that openness is the best way. Or bring it up again and say: I know, don't cal you, you, you'll call me or better still jump right out there and say Okay, you told me you can help; what would be a good time for you? Act as though you you never thought in a million years they would back out or you would have made other arrangements and remind them it was their idea and had you known they didn't mean it you would not have the problem now of finding help on short notice. Good luck and God Bless.
I don't think you are overreacting at all. As you said, it took a lot for you to accept the offered help and now that you have, all you hear is crickets. Why do people do that? It is so hurtful. Just do not say anything until you think long and hard about the potential commitment. I feel badly for you. I hope you find the help you need soon. Hugs
I had missed all of my grandson's soccer games and baseball games for two years already and my "friends and family" who all said "If you need help, just call. Anytime we can do anything, just call", were all busy doing something else when I called. I just stopped calling. I asked the woman who was being PAID to help me if she would change her hours one time to come late and work late so I could get to one baseball game last year. She did, but body language let me know that I'd better not ask her to sacrifice like that again. I GAVE UP. Sometimes, for some of us, there is just no way out. We just don't know enough of the good people. I don't doubt, though, that if the shoe was on the other foot and it was asked of us, we would jump at the chance to help someone else.
yes, there are so many ingenuines, perhaps time to find a new friend. Someone comes to my door, asks, I do....simple. Explore new places where social minded people are, it needn't be a Christian group....I am in Spain but I would give you my time gladly! We should all try and help those who need it, all good karma.
You write: "...I have many times had friends ask what they can do to help. I have never felt comfortable accepting their offers of help; it always just seemed like too much to ask of non-family. "

I am one of those non-family members that often offers to help friends and I often get rebuffed by those unwilling to receive support...Then (sometimes) they will get exhausted, burned out, and resentful because "there is no one who will help." THAT is very hurtful to me, as I know that I am willing, available, sincerely concerned for both the caregiving friend and the care receiver (even if I am not "family" of the care receiver) and TRUSTWORTHY. It seems that sometimes a caregiver is unwilling to receive support and assistance because they don't trust others to do a good job, they refuse to surrender "control," and/or they are determined to be the long-suffering martyr in the situation. To those I quote Dolly Parton (one of my favorite people), who said, "Come on down from that cross, Honey, we can use the firewood." (I am a "former family martyr" myself. I resigned from that position.) I encourage family caregivers to make a list of small, medium, and large tasks that you would trust someone else to do for you. Make the list VERY SPECIFIC and include tasks that involve direct care of your mom AND other tasks on your list of "things to do" that may not involve direct care of your mom but would relieve you of that specific thing at least once. Don't hesitate to put even the most mundane tasks on the list (grocery shopping, cooking, light housecleaning, errands, etc). Make copies of the list. When someone offers to help, hand them the list and say, "Thank you for your kindness and concern. If you would be willing to do ANY of these things even once, it would be a great help." THEN you will know who is really willing to help and who is just being polite. If you will allow them to help you, they will feel good about it and someday you can pass that kindness forward to others. Blessings to you and to your mother and to all your friends who are truly willing to help.
MY DEAR:

MY HEARTFELT GRATITUDE TO YOU FOR ALL YOU DO. I AM AN ONLY CHILD AS WELL AND HAVE GROWN UP INDEPENDENTLY. IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, PEOPLE ARE JUST SELFISH AND INCONSIDERATE.
EVEN FAMILY AND FRIENDS. SO TRY NOT TO TAKE IT PESONAL. IT IS JUST A SIGN OF THE TIMES IN WHICH WE LIVE.

THEY RATHER BE JUDGEMENTAL AND OPINIONATED THAN HELP.
I HAVE BEEN CARING FOR MY MOTHER SINCE '08. I INHERITED MY DAD ON '09 AFTER BEING ESTRANGED FOR 36 YEARS. MY PARENTS DIVORCED WHEN IU WAS 18. FOR THE LAST TWO YEARS OF HIS LIFE, HE WAS IN ANOTHER STATE, AND I TOOK CARE OF HIM AS BEST I COULD UNTIL HIS PASSING AFTER CHOKING ON HIS SUPPER WHILE IN REHAB.ONE DAY AFTER XMAS '11. AS A LONE CAREGIVER I OFTEN HAVE A DIFFICULT TIME FINDING RESPITE. ON TWO OCCASIONS I RELINQUISHED RESPONSIBILITES AND TOOK RESPITE CAUSE I FELT IF I DID NTO I WOULD NOT BE HERE MYSELF. THIS WAS DISATEROUS I PAID A HEAVY PRICE AND HAD MORE TO DEAL WITH WHEN I RETURNED THAN IF I NEVER LEFT.. YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING WHAT SOMEONE WILL DO UNTIL THEY DO IT. I REPEAT, YOU HAVE NO WAY OF KNOWING WHAT SOMEONE WILL DO UNTIL THEY DO IT. UNFORTUNATELY, AND OFTEN AT OUR EXPENSE, YOU FIND OUT IN THESE SITUATIONS. YOU CAN CONTRACT PEOPLE, PAY PEOPLE AND THEY WILL NOT DO THE JOB LIKE YOU. YOU HAVE TO FIND A CAREGIVER OR SOMEONE WHO KNOWS EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE DELAING WITH AND GOING THROUGH TO OFFER YOU THE SUPPORT YOU NEED. AS HARD AS IT MAY BE DON'T TAKE IT PERSONAL. HUMAN NATURE IS COMPLEX OF ITSELF AND WE LIVE IN TIMES WHERE (some) PEOPLE JUST DON'T CARE. THEY FORGET THAT THEY TOO WILL BE OLD ONE DAY. THEY FORGET THAT AT ANY GIVEN MOMENT THEY COUDL NOT HAVE WHAT THEY TAKE FOR GRANTED. I WISH I COULD BE THERE TO HELP YOU CAUSE I WOULD. I KNOW WHAT IT IS LIKE. I AM HERE TO LET MY MOTHER IN EVERY DAY AND SHE TOLD THE DAY PROGRAM NO ONE IS HERE TO LET HER IN. WHEN YOU CAN PICK AND CHOSE YOUR BATTLES AT THE END OF THE DAY IT IS WHAT GIVES THEM THE MOST QUALITY OF LIFE IN THEIR LAST DAYS. I KNOW IT IS DIFFICULT. TRY FINDING A COLLEGE STUDENT OR RESPONSIBLE TEEN IF THE HOURS ARE SUCH THEY CAN DO IT AFTER SCHOOL. AND, WITH THE CLIMATE OF OUTR SOCIETY TODAY THAT IS DIFFICULT AS YOU CAN NOT TRUST ANY AND EVERYONE.
I WILL PRAY FOR YOU THAT GOD WILL SEND YOU AN ANGEL TO ASSIT YOU.RIGHT NOW MY MOM IS IN REHAB AND IT HAS GIVEN ME A MUCH NEEDED RESPITE THAT I WOULD NOT OTHER WISE GET. I SLEPT FOR A WEEK STRAIGHT AND REALIZED ONLY THEN HOW MUCH I DO WHEN I WAS NOT DOING IT. WE LIVE IN A WORLD THAT IS VERY SELF-ABSORBED AND GRATIFYING. WE LIVE WITHOUT TRUE EMPATHY FOR OTHERS. WE DO NOT LIKE TRYING ON ANOTHER'S SHOE IF WE REALLY DO NOT HAVE TO. I DO NOT KNOW WHAT IT IS GOING TO TAKE FOR FOLKS TO GET IT. BE ENCOURAGED AND I SEND YOU A WHEELBARREL OF HUGS...
I have the same experience. I think often the offer is insincere. But I do have a few great friends that will come through in a crunch. I don't know why people are like that, but I think I've made my own insincere offers at times too.
I too am an only child caring for my mother with mid-stage Alzheimer's. I am also single. It is not unusual for family or friends to disappear in the face of this disease. No one calls, visits, or offers to help me even the smallest way. I am very disappointed and angry. This is not a good way to be. It interfers with the large and important task at hand. Just go about your business as best you can. If you can afford it, you may want to consider hiring someone trustworthy and reliable for several hours per day or per week to provide you more relief.
It is a very hard thing to do - asking for help. Sometimes we are refused before asking. When my father died, my mom's next door neighbor told her not to be asking her for rides. My mom couldn't drive anymore since she had lost her dominant arm. She was so very hurt. My dad was barely "in the ground" when she was told this.

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