Being taken advantage of

October 7th

No matter how I look at it, I had, and I have, a pretty good life. So, after I stopped drinking I decided to give something back and became a volunteer. This was something that I wanted to do for a long time but, you know — I was always too busy drinking or planning drinking or hungover after drinking to do anything about it. But once I got sober, I contacted a local municipal family help center, filled the forms, went through a background check, and officially become a volunteer.

It is quite straightforward — one afternoon a week, helping elderly people with their shopping and small household chores that they no longer can do. But mostly what those I help need, is to be able to talk to somebody. Their families are not around or don’t want to be around and they are very lonely. For six months I was helping different people, every week my handling person from the family help center would call me and we arranged the details. Now, for the last six months, I’ve been helping the same person — we have an arrangement for either Tuesday or Thursday. My handling person still calls me every week to check if I am up to volunteering another week and she sounds very incredulous when I say “sure” (as I understand previous volunteers there all lasted a week or so before quitting).

That is because a person I help, an elderly lady is an extremely difficult person. Difficult to help, and just not a pleasant person to be around. We usually go shopping together — she has trouble walking so she needs my help to move around. Fortunately, she lives in the center of the city so all the stores and pharmacies are within short walking distance. The problem is her behavior — she is unbelievably rude and annoying and condescending toward all shop/pharmacy employees. She treats them like dirt like they don’t know anything or they want to take advantage of her. She yells at them, demands to see the manager, threatens to call the police — you know, the works…. She is clearly disturbed in those interactions with other people. I did talk to her about it several times, but she doesn’t see anything wrong with what she is doing. She says she is the customer so she can do and demand anything from them. It is much better when she just gives me a list of things to buy and I do all the shopping myself. As for the other stuff — I have no problem with taking out the garbage, vacuuming/dusting, even window washing, or tidying up the stuff in her cellar. The problem is that she constantly criticizes every single thing I do, everything is wrong, not the way she would do it and I need to correct it. It bothered me a lot in the beginning, now I mostly ignore what she says and do it my way. No matter — those afternoons are very unpleasant and I actually dread going there (like I will this afternoon).

The simplest solution is of course contacting my handling person at the family help center and explaining the situation and asking for a change and a different person I could help. On the other hand, I know that I already have enough experience and strength to handle or ignore the demands and behavior of this lady that other volunteers might not have. And she clearly needs help — she will not able to take care of herself without outside help. She actually does have a family that lives nearby, but they no longer want to have anything to do with her. The neighbors are the same way — she yells and publicly demeans them as well and any help will not be forthcoming from their side. I guess they no longer can handle being taken advantage of and the general nastiness.

And I am getting to this point myself. I need to rethink all that and make my decision. I still want to help others but that situation had become a deeply irritating and dreaded chore for me.

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