When to help someone whose only choice is ‘no other choice’

Filling the gap for those with limiting disabilities and unmet needs

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by Ray Burow |

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On a recent shopping trip, I saw an older woman walking through the parking lot. She appeared to struggle as she maneuvered her metal walker, which wasn’t fancy or new. The lady had to lift it and take a step to advance. Lift and step. As she got deeper into the parking lot, I wondered if she was still driving, and I hoped she wasn’t.

When the woman finally made it to the car, I wondered how she’d fold the walker, place it in the back seat or the trunk, and then walk without support to climb into the driver’s seat and drive away. My initial thought? She shouldn’t be driving.

The immediate thought that followed was, “She probably has no choice.”

Yet for the grace of God

You’ve heard the old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” The fortunate among us aren’t immune to aging. Aging is the goal, in fact. We want to grow old and hope for a good outcome through the aging process.

There are no guarantees, however. My mother was diagnosed with dementia, which progressed to Alzheimer’s disease as she got older. Later in life, she used a walker to assist with mobility, though gratefully, hers wasn’t as cumbersome as the dear woman’s in the grocery store parking lot.

The point is, everyone will need a bit of help eventually.

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Filling the gap for those in need

If the stranger in the parking lot drove to the grocery store because she had no choice, that’s a shame. However, she’s not alone. There are many older folks in similar situations. Their health compromises their ability to travel independently, even for short trips. They lack family or other parties to assist with everyday tasks, such as grocery shopping or other trips to places they need to be.

Familial caregivers often fill the gaps for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s or other disabling conditions, but what about those without family?

Yes, some agencies and businesses deliver food, and there are taxis and car services, such as Uber and Lift, but older adults need physical assistance beyond pickups and drop-offs. They need help getting in and out of cars and assistance with loading and unloading groceries, for example. Plus, arranging rides with a service is daunting for many older people. For many of them, scheduling anything over the internet is foreign.

As you read this column, perhaps someone in your neighborhood or within your sphere of influence pops to mind. Do you know someone who could use a helping hand? Maybe you know a busy caregiver who’s helping a loved one. What could you do to help out?

When my children were young, they’d occasionally visit a friend’s house or go on a play date with friends and their families, and I’d pick them up afterward. I was caring for my mother simultaneously, so getting out of the house was often a struggle.

Imagine my delight when a friend offered to drive to my home to drop off my child so I wouldn’t have to come out with my mother. I remember telling this mom-friend, “The kids were supposed to call me, and I’d pick them up.”

Typically, the friend would shrug her shoulders and say, “I was already out of the house.” She viewed it as small, but it was a huge blessing to me.

You see, helping someone doesn’t always require a vast gesture or investment. It most often requires noting a need and filling it when possible. It could be as simple as picking up a few things for a neighbor when shopping. Maybe it’s picking up a newspaper from the driveway or a mailbox and delivering it to a person’s front door. Shoveling snow from a walkway, cutting a lawn, dragging the trash can to the curb, or making a healthy meal for the caregiver or a older person living alone: All of these are huge gestures.

Does anyone come to mind for whom you can lend a hand? We all know someone who’s reached the point where no other choice is their only option.

Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.


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