With so much legislative and political uncertainty swirling throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, we as a society will have to step up and help the vulnerable members of our population. The good news is that there are people already doing just that.
Many of you probably heard about Chris Salvatore, who scored viral fame for taking care of Norma, his 89-year-old neighbor with leukemia. He became her primary caregiver as the woman had no relatives to care for her. Norma died in February, but she was surrounded by the love of her neighbor and many fans on social media.
Another story that received less attention involves a man with dementia who was living alone in Kentucky. Sergeant Jon Sterling did regular wellness checks on the man, and discovered that it was time for the man to be moved into a secure facility. While the man was a veteran and had social security benefits to offset the monthly charge of the facility, moving costs prompted the police officer to start an online fundraiser. The $5,000 goal was reached within 24 hours.
Two men from very different worlds reached out to help a vulnerable member of their community. Compassion is part of the human spirit just as much as some of our more negative attributes. I hope that people will be inspired by these examples to help those in need.
While tending to a loved one that is ill, you will find yourself meeting people from all walks of life that you would not otherwise meet. You will deal with the good, the bad, the indifferent. It’s just like in any other area of your life, except caregiving makes one more sensitive to every situation.
I think that’s especially true for those caring for someone with dementia. You feel obligated to advocate for those whose voice has been hijacked by disease.
But often, it’s not the doctors or even the nurses that leave the largest and most positive impression.
I remember when Dad was clinging to life in an Albuquerque hospital, there was a cleaning lady from Cuba that would come in every day. I don’t remember her name, but I remember her sweet and gentle demeanor. I remember how she carefully stepped into the room that first day, and in halting English, stated her name, told us she was from Cuba and warned us her English was not very good, but that she was learning.
Mom immediately launched into a barrage of words that there is no way the cleaning lady could comprehend. But what she did realize, because of her deep compassion, was the situation at hand. This cleaning lady worked the CCU floor, where the most critical patients were placed. I saw her sweep her gentle gaze over my father, who was sedated and connected to a bunch of machines. She offered us a beautiful, genuine smile as she turned towards us.
There are no words necessary to understand the drama that was being played out in that room. Any human with a good heart could feel it, and the cleaning lady sensed it and offered us a warm, soothing spirit as she went about her work. It’s these chance encounters, that seem so trivial at the time, that often resonate with us so much.