A couple friends of mine called me today, extremely upset. It's a bit of a complicated story so I'll try to simplify it in the explanation. They know an older fellow who, over the course of the last few years, lost his job, alienated everyone who knew him, frightened children and small dogs. He squandered his money and was about to be made homeless. They stepped in, only as concerned bystanders really, and helped him get organized - out of his house and into what they called 'foster care' ... which sounds on description like a group home for elderly people. Throughout the weekend, as they helped out, he was alternately thankful and mean. They weren't close to him so his attitude annoyed them more than hurt them but they were determined to help him get moved out of his apartment (from which he was about to be evicted for non payment of rent) and into some kind of care. I don't really know much more about the circumstances.
The reason they called me was because they were upset at how 'uncaring' the 'care providers' were. Oh, they were nice to the fellow moving in but they were horrid to the others living there. Shouting at them. Disregarding their requests. Dismissing their needs. They had the sense that the fellow they were helping was only getting decent treatment because they were there. As they left they didn't know how to feel. They were relieved that he hadn't been put on the street. They were grateful that he had a place to stay. But they simply knew that his life had gone from bad to worse. "How can people be like that?" they asked me.
I don't know.
Everyone makes excuses about people being underpaid (that's true) and overworked (that's true too) but even with all that, I don't really understand. How we act is, I think, always a choice. Our behaviour isn't affected as much by our circumstances as it is by the moment by moment decisions we make. Ultimately I am responsible for what I say and what I do - because I said it and because I did it. So the excuses don't really make sense to me. Punishing people who have no power to affect change seems simply mean.
But something they said struck me, "We'd all better think about demanding better care because we may all be headed for care."
And that's true.
However, I wonder if we should be demanding better care because people get hurt in care - because people are demeaned in care, because people experience humiliation by care providers. Isn't that reason enough? If our motivation is only 'me' then I won't care about things that don't affect 'me'.
But that aside they asked me what they should do.
They thought that writing a letter or calling the administrator to report what they saw and heard might end up in the old fellow getting bullied because of their action. They didn't want him to suffer because they'd made a complaint.
I gave them one piece of advice, I'll put that in the comment section after I hear from you all. What do you think they should do or should have done ...? I'm curious because I realized that they were immobilized by a sense of helplessness - which isn't, by far, the same as apathy.
So over to you ...