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Disrespecting the Elderly by Lisa Fitzpatrick

Photo by PoPville flickr user Hoodsweatsh

Ed. Note: Lisa is a facebook friend of mine and when I saw her note I contacted her immediately. She has allowed me to post her thought here. It is a very upsetting read but a very important one.

“Last night as I was walking out of the hospital, an elderly woman, 80 years old, called out to me and asked if I could give her a ride home. She was a dialysis patient and said she had been waiting for her transportation for 3 ½ hours. It was 745pm.

I told her I would be happy to drive the car around to get her. As I approached in my car, my heart sank as I watched this feeble woman hobbling to the curb with her cane. Her movements were so slow and deliberate, it was almost as if she was intentionally moving in slow motion. I had to assist her to enter the car. As if her circumstances were not appalling enough, the conversation we had in the car on the way to her Columbia Heights apartment upset me even more.

She told me how she called her grandson earlier that day to ask for a ride home and how he refused and cursed her out because she would not give him money. She lives alone and when I asked who looks after her she said, “I look after myself”. She does have some assistance. They are young female “helpers” who come to assist her a few times a week. It turns out they come to “help” themselves more than they help her. She related how they systematically and consistently pilfer her belongings and daily essentials. Toilet paper, food, laundry soap, small change—each disappearing little by little. She doesn’t refuse the help but knows that she would probably be better off without them. She sent one of them to the grocery store. The young lady bought some of the things she needed and then spent or took the rest of the money for herself.

Continues after the jump.

In the less than 10 minute drive to her home, she told me at least a half dozen stories about opportunistic and selfish young people who have taken advantage of her. I then asked about whether or not she was linked into the District’s support system for the aging. Well she was. In fact, it was the District’s transportation service that facilitated our chance meeting.

Our elders are among society’s most vulnerable. I am horrified by the disrespect shown to our elders. I am ashamed and embarrassed for us as a society and more importantly as a city. It is time for us to teach our young people to respect our elders and to bolster the support and elders’ access to these services. We must appreciate the paths they have paved and opportunities they have afforded us. We are indeed standing on the shoulders of giants and our elders deserve the respect of kings and queens.

I helped her out of the car then gave her my number. I told her she could call me if she needed assistance. As I drove away, my heart ached for the hundreds or maybe even thousands of invisible elders, frail, feeble and alone just like her who need an honest, helping hand. I am grateful she had the spirit and courage to ask a complete stranger for assistance. We have to do better. For them and for ourselves.”

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