Sunday, 11 March 2012

Brushed aside

It's easy to overlook human frailty. If we're able-bodied, healthy and mentally alert, it's easy to be impatient and insensitive towards those who aren't.

We don't always understand the limitations and failings that other people are struggling with, and sometimes it's all too tempting to believe they're exaggerating their problems and don't really need as much help as they make out.

How often I see people intent only on their own personal pleasures or urgent tasks rushing through the streets in a self-absorbed bubble, with no time or tolerance for those who are physically impaired, slow-witted, confused or otherwise not as capable as those around them.

How often I see reports of lonely elderly people forgotten about by their neighbours, disabled people forced onto the sidelines, mentally ill people treated as work-shy frauds, and wonder when we're going to have a bit more compassion and consideration.

I think the worst offenders aren't ordinary individuals, who can be astonishingly generous and sympathetic when prompted, but politicians to whom the weak and vulnerable are frequently nothing more than a tiresome embarrassment to be hidden away and ignored. Or told they're leeching off the state and should get off their arses.

A couple of years ago there was an elderly man living in the house next door. I didn't think about him much, I assumed he was happy enough doing his own thing, whatever that was. Then I heard he had died of chronic liver disease as a result of heavy drinking.

I thought that maybe if I'd been a bit nosier, a bit friendlier, he would still be alive. I was maybe just as oblivious as so many other people. The truth is, he was out of sight and out of mind.

24 comments:

nursemyra said...

Chronic liver disease would have done for him sooner rather than later Nick. You probably couldn't have done anything to extend his life, though a casserole or two might have given him a couple of happier nights.

Nick said...

Myra - You're probably right. And maybe a bit of friendly conversation along with the casserole.

John Gray said...

I blogged about a similar subject recently
for me,it was the constant drip, drip drip of meeting up with and making friends with elderly village folk (the only ones around) that "tuned" be into being a little more OAP FRIENDLY......

Nick said...

Indeed you did, John, and that was one of the things that prompted me to write the post. Oldies are too easily dismissed as senile old crocks. Do we oldies dismiss the young as shallow trendies?

Macy said...

The old and infirm don't always make it easy on themseves.... having spent the past decade alienating her family, my mother is now ignoring friends.
Part of it's senility... part of it is just her.

Sorry. I'm currently run ragged with this.

Nick said...

Macy - I can entirely sympathise. Some oldies certainly don't help themselves. My declining father in law became so difficult his exhausted wife was eventually forced to move him into a care home to protect her own health.

Bijoux said...

A real pet peeve of mine is the use of the word 'retard' in everyday language as a slur.

As far as the elderly, we are all going to be there some day, so it's wise to remember that with a little friendliness and patience.

Nick said...

Bijoux - I agree. Apparently "retard" is used quite widely in the States but is hardly ever heard in the UK.

As you say, we're all going to be old one day, so "do as you would be done by".

Rummuser said...

Not to take away the merit of your observation, it would however, be nice to see the flip side of the coin too Nick. As a care giver to a 95 year old control freak father, it is not easy. I also am part of the circle of care givers who use an internet a forum to share their grief and life's googlies that inevitably are bowled to them. The stories will make you weep if you do not know the backgrounds to the elder's problems, particularly if they suffer from alzheimers/parkinson's. etc. With elders with dementia of any kine, it gets worse and I know of two cases where it led to total nervous breakdowns.

Nick said...

Ramana - You're absolutely right about some oldies presenting problems that drive carers to the end of their tether - and beyond. Dementia as you say is particularly distressing. I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone who complains is being hard-hearted. I'm referring more to those who pretend these problems don't exist at all.

Baino said...

If I died,nobody would notice for days other than a lack of posting on Facebook....neighbours aint what they used to be. Then many people don't share their problems or difficulties, pride? Perhaps but I think it more likely they don't want to 'bother' anyone since we all have problems. It's sad, shows the frailty of 'community' as much as the victims.

Nick said...

Baino - True, neighbours aren't what they used to be. Either they can't be bothered, or they don't want to "intrude", or they're just too damn busy. As you say, the frailty of the community.

Jenny Woolf said...

Reminds me that there is someone I need to visit.

Nick said...

Jenny - Glad to have jogged your memory! Aren't there always people we don't keep in touch with regularly enough?

blackwatertown said...

Well, next time.

Maybe concentrating on just one person is more effective and realistic, than feeling daunted by the overall scale of loneliness and need. I do one or two. You do one or two. Between we get round quite a few.

With a bit of luck you'll have a new mate.

Nick said...

Blackwater - That's a good idea, find one or two people who need some support or company and don't worry too much about all the rest. We can only do so much.

Wisewebwoman said...

I am a believer in karma and the golden rule.

We need to pay more attention and time is the greatest gift we can offer. A listening caring ear.

The awful loneliness out there stops my heart, it is everywhere.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - I strongly believe that what we call loneliness is often simply boredom. If we're totally absorbed in something, it makes no difference if we're on our own or not. Just look at a child playing! But that said, people still feel lonely and they still find it disheartening.

Suburbia said...

Frightening how they can be so easily ignored. We are all guilty at some point I guess though politicians more so - but that goes without saying!

Nick said...

Suburbia - Politicians are not only neglectful of the weak and vulnerable but often positively vicious. Mainly because so many of them come from a privileged and comfortable background.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I think you might over-estimate your own power in the case of your neighbor - a lifetime of alcohol dependence does not shift just because a neighbor takes an interest. I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't be friendly or concerned, just that people's lives are complicated and there is only so much you can do. And I agree that politically there is a lot of power to do good that is set aside for expediency or selfishness.

Nick said...

Agent - You're right, it takes a lot more than one friendly neighbour to change such deep-rooted behaviour. If only it were that simple.

Liz said...

It's very difficult to know when interest becomes nosiness and I tend to be too wary of offending. (I was going to write something else so deep and meaningful you'd have nominated me for Brain of Britain - but it's slipped out of my head.)

Nick said...

Liz - I know, it's hard to tell when you're slipping into unwanted nosiness. And some people can be very touchy about things that are normally neutral topics.