It occurs to me that there probably are thousands of people like this, unobtrusively supporting tens of thousands of elderly friends and neighbors in ways large and small.
Maybe you know someone who plays a similar role; maybe you’re the one dispensing soup and giving rides. A number of the folks in my dad’s building are frail, with failing sight and hearing, walkers and canes. Some are in their 90s now. To have someone close by to call makes an enormous difference.
When I asked Jo Ann what led her to become an unpaid social worker, she mentioned that her father died when she was a teenager and that being with old people was a pleasure for her.
But at root, her motives are simpler. “They need help,” she said of her neighbors. “So if I can do it, I help.”
She and Fred won’t show up on any government or academic survey of caregiving. I doubt they’d even think the phrase applies to them. Yet I personally think she’s keeping a half-dozen people out of assisted living or nursing homes, and the only way I can really say thanks is to send an occasional box of Godiva chocolates (her favorite). And to write this post.
And to be conscious, myself, of the older people around me who could use a hand.
The Caregiver Next Door - The New York Times