DEAR AMY: We have a neighbor we have known for about two years. We have helped her in many ways -- with friendship, taking her shopping, bringing over baked treats, and stepping in, in emergency situations. This neighbor now seems to think we (mainly me) are her go-to people for everything. She has a son who lives nearby, but he seems to not show up much. I blew up a few weeks ago when I was dealing with my own problems and told her I can't be everything to everyone. She apologized and said she understood. But it hasn't stopped and I have had it. My husband doesn't really deal with her on the same level and now he makes me feel guilty when I can't tolerate being her problem solver anymore.
The stress from her gives me headaches. She had a very good and interesting job, traveled the world, and yet has not an ounce of common sense.
--Not My Neighbor's Keeper
Blowing up suddenly because you feel used will not retrain your neighbor. It will only make her think that you are volatile.
Though you don't think you owe her anything further, you do owe her a respectful explanation, along with some guidelines to which you will adhere -- even if she doesn't.
You tell her, "I can't do the things for you that I used to do. You're going to have to find other ways to get what you need, day-to-day." Research options for elder transportation or services. But unless she is unusually impaired, it will be her responsibility to follow through. You should also follow up with her son (if possible) to let him know that you are backing off.
If she calls you with a nonemergency matter, you should tell her, "I'm sorry, I can't help out today." Stepping back might give you more energy (and renewed kindness) to step in as the world's greatest neighbor with assistance when she really needs you.