A (Not So) Neighborly Problem

This is a true story, but I’ve changed the name of the person I’m writing about to avoid potential problems. Even though there is no chance she would ever learn about this blog post.

I recently had a visit from a Hanover County deputy. But before I tell you why, let me share the back story.

Elizabeth is ninety-three. She and her adult son–he’s around my age–have lived next door the entire fourteen years I’ve lived here, and–until recently–my relationship with Elizabeth was reasonably pleasant. If I didn’t talk with her often, it was because we didn’t have anything in common, not my lack of interest in her as a person.

Although she has a number of other health issues, her poor hearing, inability to walk easily, and weakening mental powers have proven to be the most frustrating–at least from my perspective.

Kathleen and I have made many efforts to be good neighbors to Elizabeth. I used to drive her to a doctor’s or a lawyer’s appointment from time to time, and Kathleen periodically drove her to the beauty shop. For years, Kathleen called her on Friday afternoons to find out what she needed us to get her at the grocery store that evening. While her needs were small, the extra shopping took time and effort and Elizabeth seemed to appreciate it.

Like many people from her generation, she’s afraid to spend much to make her place safer and more livable. Consequently, taking her food over when we got back from the grocery store required a visit to a less than environmentally pleasant atmosphere. But she needed help–her son doesn’t help as much as he could–and we felt we should continue doing whatever we could.

For years Elizabeth had claimed she heard me singing in the middle of the night or at other times–sometimes when I wasn’t home. But a few months ago, she started complaining to Kathleen that  the songs she heard me singing were critical of her. No amount of protesting on Kathleen’s part–how many times did she assure that poor woman that I did not get up during the night and sing, much less do it loudly enough for Elizabeth to hear next door with her poor hearing?– would convince her that she was hallucinating. Neither did Kathleen’s insistence that I wouldn’t sing bad things about her.

Why in the world would I want to?

Then Elizabeth called to tell Kathleen they couldn’t be friends anymore since Kathleen wasn’t keeping me from singing those nasty songs about her. Although that freed us from helping with the grocery shopping, our concern about her welfare led us to check with social services to see what help might be available for her.

The hallucinations have continued. Elizabeth has left lengthy voice mail on our phone (although not recently) and at the community office complaining about the songs she insists and sincerely believes–that’s the scary part–she hears. She’s called the Sheriff’s office at least three times to complain about me and believes she’s seen me talking to them at least once during the middle of the night.

I have to give the Hanover deputies a great deal of credit for their kindness and patience. Talking with Elizabeth and then with me, they can’t miss seeing that the real problem is senility, although of course they’re not free to express that opinion.

When the deputy came to the door that morning, he asked if I knew why he was here. “My next-door neighbor probably thinks she’s heard me singing nasty songs about her again.” His visit was brief, but as pleasant as it could be under the circumstances. He understood what Elizabeth is unable to understand and accept.

I’ve hesitated to publish this post because I’m not fond of saying anything bad about Elizabeth. Her mental condition isn’t her fault any more than her physical problems, and her hallucinations haven’t created any real problem for Kathleen and me. I’m not sure the community office and the Sheriff’s department would agree, however.

We both feel as sorry for and concerned about Elizabeth as we possibly can. Kathleen and I pray for her at least several times daily. The poor woman is miserable, and–even though I haven’t done and wouldn’t do anything to hurt her–I feel bad that she’s so convinced I have and I do.

I usually ask for comments about my blog posts, but today I have a different request. Would you use the comment space to pray a simple prayer for Elizabeth’s well-being and for God to alleviate the misery her hallucinations are causing?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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Best regards,

6 thoughts on “A (Not So) Neighborly Problem

  1. Sometimes meds can be the problem. Praying that someone will step up to be sure she has a complete physical so that she can have peace. Also praying for you and Kathleen.


  2. here’s a heartfelt prayer that You and Kathleen continue to be able to cope, and your poor neighbor finds peace. If there is a office of aging in your town, usually connected with the department of social services/cps, they can do a welfare check and have her medically assessed. It’s worth a try.


  3. Father God, for all those who suffer from dementia, who no longer can decide who is safe to know, who will care for them and where they are at any given time of the day, I seek your comfort, for in the everlasting arms we all are safe. amen
    Roger, having known you and Kathleen for years, I understand your struggle when reaching out to others who need extra care. Your gentle spirit and kindness are a blessing to me when I visit the nursing home and can get home for church on various Sunday’s. Know that the crowns you will receive in Glory will be piled high! What a blessing you are 🙂


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