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.
This story out of Alabama is tragic on so many levels. Neighbors called police to perform a wellness check on an elderly couple, one who has dementia. The neighbors reported not seeing the couple for months. When the police arrived, they saw the woman who has dementia moving about the home. Through a window they could see her husband, clearly deceased, on a bed. When the police gained access to the home, they found the woman with dementia in poor health, and two dogs that they believed starved to death. Authorities believe the woman lived with her dead husband in that home for at least a month.
We must strengthen our communities to prevent heartbreaking tragedies like these from happening. In our modern society, it seems we have discarded a true sense of community. I keep to myself and do not socialize with neighbors; I live in a big city and while the neighbors seem harmless enough and I speak to them in passing, urban life tends not to encourage close neighborly relations. I did spend an hour tracking down my neighbors across the street to let them know they had left the trunk of their car wide open, so I’m not completely cold-hearted. I work from home so I naturally observe the routines of my neighbors. If I knew I had a neighbor with dementia, I think I would pay more attention. Of course, people have a right to privacy so communities can’t advertise who has dementia even if it is to provide assistance.
I’m not sure what the answer is but there does need to be more safety nets for our elderly population. Not everyone has children or a group of close friends or family members to check up on them. We shouldn’t let these people fall through the cracks, and end up in tragic situations like what occurred in Alabama.
Does your community offer any programs that check-in on seniors to make sure they are safe?