During a stop at a restaurant for lunch, I noticed a frail looking old man who asked if he could share a seat with us while we were also waiting for our order. He was shaking uncontrollably and was using a 4-leg walker as he seems to walk inch by inch. Parkinson’s Syndrome has caused some of his muscles to be rigid and also causing some tremors that affected his speech and gate. Someone then came to give him his pouch. We were so surprised when the old man opened his bag and handed over a new Rs 50 note to the helper and struggled to zip his opened bag.
The man wanted to order some chicken but he was in great difficulty even saying the word “chicken,” until the waiter decided to tell him what’s on the menu and ask him questions that can be answered by a simple yes/no. As soon as his order, consists of chicken and bread arrived, he was eager to start his meal. But he couldn’t even put his spoon close to his mouth without spilling his food. He obviously was struggling to eat. He was like a 1 year old child with food on his face and food bits scattered on his lap and on the table.
I remained seated and continued to watch him with the corner of my eye so as not to offend him. He was gesturing something and seemed to want some more bread but couldn’t voice it out. He tried a number of times but to no avail as nobody could hear him nor pay attention to him. I decided to call the waiter to bring him another bread. I felt bad for him because he was a big man, with a large frame physique but very helpless.
His presence stirred a lot of questions in my head. Why would a vulnerable, frail old man be moving alone and why isn’t there any family member to assist him at such age? Where and who are his family members? Why is he carrying such bulk of money by himself? And with such condition as his, he can easily be robbed or tricked by some people.
I just assumed that perhaps he left his house alone because he was bored, angry or just want to unwind and go places. Or could it be he no longer have any family member who would like to look after him, or maybe he doesn’t want to be taken cared of and still want to prove that he isn’t a burden to anyone who might be looking after him and try his best to do things on his own.
I had so many assumptions in mind. But, I was really bothered by the fact that he was so fragile, so vulnerable and him being exposed to the elements and to the busy streets and harsh society, he might meet some kind of accident as his senses are also no longer that sharp and alert.
This encounter made me reflect a lot on our daily lives, our associations, our connectedness as a family, as friends, as neighbours, as acquaintances, or as a community. How many old, disabled or disadvantaged people like him are roaming the streets on their own? I couldn’t and I wouldn’t want to even imagine!
WHAT CAN WE DO WHEN GET A SIMILAR ENCOUNTER ?
I must admit that we were actually taken aback and was confused on how to approach or how we can be of help to him. Even before we logically decided or thought of an idea to be of assistance to him, his pitiable condition have already affected our emotions and we ended up sympathizing instead of showing empathy. We got caught in our own emotions, our own fears, our insecurities and self-made perceptions.
I noted some ideas on how to be of help to persons with disability and here’s what I have finally concluded:
- We can call a particular helpline that can send assistance and professional help to such cases (some of them are mentioned below).
- We can take his photo and share to the local authorities and inform them that he needs help or assistance so as not to be a target of criminals, thieves, etc. Just to ensure his safety and security.
- We can also try to talk to him. But we must be careful not to show pity or say something that may compromise both our security and safety.
- We can ask for his next of kin, who may then collect him and look after him.
- We can contact an organization or government agency for senior citizens, or for the disabled to help that person and also orient his family about his condition and the proper way of ensuring his health, safety and security.
No senior citizen or person with disability should be experiencing that same fate as the old man we met at the restaurant. We should continue to look after our family members not only while they can provide us with our needs but we should actually show them more respect, love and care in their old age or when they are no longer physically strong or able.
The fact that I simply observed the old man, despite his struggles and hardships while trying to move around and eat his meal. I actually feel guilty and upset at the same time. I was guilty due to the fact I really wanted to help or assist him, and yet I restrained myself to do so. Thinking that I might offend him by offering assistance when in fact he was trying to be independent. And I was also upset because other people who saw him didn’t even bother to ask if he was okay or if he needs help. And most of all, he shouldn’t be on his own afterall!
This experience is indeed an eye opener. What kind of society do we have now? What kind of community do we belong? Have we become selfish or insensitive? So many questions may remain unanswered but I am sharing this to you now, so you can also ponder and do something better next time.
Story/Experience shared by Mr Kapil Srivastava
We found following helplines numbers/address in Google but when we called them, our team received rude response (we will share their responses in separate blog and also notify them to medical authorities). We don’t advocate or have experience of anyone personally but here are they:
- The Neuroscience Center – All India Institute of Medical Science, Aurobindo Marg, In front of Safdarjung hospital at the crossing of Ring Road and Aurobindo Marg. Ansari Nagar, Delhi. Tel: +91-11-26588500. Website: www.aiims.ac.in
- Parkinson‘s Disease & Movement Disorder Society – 6, Jasville, 1st Floor, Opp. Liberty Cinema, Marine Lines, Mumbai – 400020, Maharashtra. Phone: 22007667/9967774944. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.parkinsonssocietyindia.com
- Medanta-The Medicity – Sector – 38, Gurgaon, Haryana 122 001, India. Tel :0124-4855055.