DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a friend who is so independent that even when it is obvious he needs help, he refuses to accept it. He is a senior citizen, and he presents himself well. He had surgery recently, and I just happened to learn about it. He made me promise not to tell anybody, and he wouldn’t let me help him in any way. I feel terrible. This is what friends are for -- to help out in times of need.
Even though my friend is in good health, after surgery it would have been helpful for someone to cook him a meal or help him wash his clothes. The little things can become hard when you are temporarily laid up, but he would have none of it. Eventually, I had to give up. But it made me sad that he refused any help. Should I just let this go? I hear these stories about people dying in their houses, and I would hate for something like that to happen to a friend I could have helped. -- No Help Please
DEAR NO HELP PLEASE: Could it be that you are being a bit melodramatic? Yes, your friend had surgery and didn’t include you in his convalescence. Are you sure that he was at home unable to care for himself? He may be telling you the truth, that he was OK and didn’t feel the need for extra help. Or he may have had help that he didn’t mention to you.
For your own peace of mind, you may want to make it clear to him that if he is in need, you would be happy to support him. Especially as people get older, it can be helpful to establish a phone tree or some other method of communicating in case of emergency. If he does not like that option, encourage him to sign up for one of those alarm programs that he can engage in case of personal emergency. Know that you cannot force him to have you as his I.C.E. -- in case of emergency.