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16 March 2007 @ 03:16 am
This is my third month working overnight at a shelter for homeless men. It's a nice place, and for the most part I'm impervious to the kind of sad stuff that's just par for the course here. But just now I was doing wakeups. This little old man was sitting at the breakfast table by himself, tons of bottles of medication piled up in front of him. I said good morning, but he didn't hear me, he was so intent on what he was doing. He was trying to button the cuff of his flannel shirt. He was looking at his fingers like he didn't understand them or something, kind of looking at them like he expected them to work and was sad that they didn't, and that he couldn't control them. I went back out after another five minutes or so and he was still trying to button his shirt, over and over. He doesn't have anything, he doesn't have anyone, and he can't even button his fucking shirt.

Would you ask him if he wanted help? I can't imagine not being able to do something like that and then having some stupid kid ask me if I wanted help. I would rather be dead, or sit there for three hours and do it myself.

*Edit* Feist's new album makes it kind of better, though. Lots of snapping and clapping, both happy noises.
Current Mood: depresseddepressed
Current Music: The new Air album, which sucks.
Net Angelnetan9el on March 16th, 2007 11:13 am (UTC)
When I worked at mental health there were several times I was unsure if I should ask someone if they needed help or not. Though there it was perhaps a little more likely they would go into a psychotic episode, but I suppose you never know.

I think I would agree with you that I would rather sit there for hours until I got it myself.

It's a hard situation between helping someone who may need it and giving them the opportunity to keep their dignity.

I don't think there is a good answer, unless perhaps you knew the person well enough to know which he may prefer.
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 16th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)
Yeah, it's dignity that's the big issue here. Nothing is worse to me than seeing a man who at one point was probably quite dignified, perhaps powerful within his family or professional sphere, reduced to that - and I would hate to make it worse.
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 16th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC)
The other problem is that we see so many people it's hard to know what's okay from person to person. There's a basic level of professional-disaffected-but helpfulness that we all maintain, and I'm pretty sure that imposing on someone's dressing ritual would cross that boundary, no matter how much they needed it. I'm going to ask my boss about this, though - I'm sure he'll have some good advice or consolation either way, as he's been in the field so long.

The good thing is that many guys will really step up to help those of them that need help. They prey on each other, too - but there is something of a sense of community...
Davros: james burkekillbox on March 16th, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
I would be tempted to hunt down a paperclip and make them a simple button hook and telling them "I too have a time with some small buttons, but here is a tool i made that helps me.

But then again i'm shy enough i probably would make the tool but not know how to broach the subject

I too know as a person who suffered severe arthritic attacks in my youth, it sometimes took me 15min just to walk from the car in the driveway into the house after physical therapy. I hated it when people waited for me, or offered help. even to this day I don't really know how to take somebody's offer of a "hand up" if i'm sitting some place awkward and somebody tries to offer help
Custos Amissarum Viarumilcylic on March 16th, 2007 02:48 pm (UTC)
If it's someone who actually cares about you, you should take the offer and be glad that there are people that are there for yout to lean on. At least, that's the conclusion I've been coming to. It's hard being tough and aloof all the time. Independance is good, but collaboration isn't a bad thing.
Davroskillbox on March 16th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Its more often a factor of not understanding how to utilize the assistance, it may seam obvious that offering a hand at gettign up or something like that is just simple but sometimes its just complicated getting all the joints in the right place, and do it with minimal pain..

dunno, i don't think its really based upon aloofness more likely socially ineptitude on my behalf.

Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 17th, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)
I know that you're replying specifically to the comment above here, but I felt I had to add, that that's what so sad about this place, and this situation. This man doesn't have anyone who knows him or cares about him, at least not anyone outside of an institutional context.
Jocelyn, Shepard-Commander: i have a dreamkryptongirl on March 16th, 2007 03:11 pm (UTC)
That's a tough call, actually. I work with Americans who DO have jobs and money that can't figure out why their giant plastic cellphone with a metal battery would alarm the metal detector or why 4.5 does not equal 3.4. In their case I help them because they are painfully retarded. But if someone was determined to do it themselves, I'm not sure I would offer help unless it was asked for.
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 17th, 2007 06:36 am (UTC)
This icon made me feel 31.6% better about my day. Thank you.
Monsieur Valentine7ghent on March 16th, 2007 04:24 pm (UTC)
I am also enjoying the new Feist.
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 17th, 2007 06:37 am (UTC)
I am also not surprised. ;)

Sea Lion Woman is sooooo cool. I have NO IDEA what the hell she's talking about, but man I want to agree, clap my hands, slap my knee and repeat the chorus.

Sea lion woman... she drinks coffee, she drinks tea...
valeri, screaming from the gallerybrightsoul on March 16th, 2007 08:28 pm (UTC)
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 17th, 2007 06:38 am (UTC)
valeri, screaming from the gallerybrightsoul on March 17th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)

no, really...i did not have the capacity to be a all verbal yesterday. but i wanted to express something, as the story made me sad and made me think. leaving him alone was probably the best thing, but yeah...damn.
valeri, screaming from the gallerybrightsoul on March 17th, 2007 04:08 pm (UTC)

see? i'm still having issues.
ex_aytchwas on March 16th, 2007 10:45 pm (UTC)
From my year or so of volunteer work at the St. Elizabeth's shelter, I found that it was best to stay away until the person approaches you for help. Many will take it as an affront to their dignity, and more than a few homeless aren't chronic indigents - they're people who have simply hit a damned rough spot in life, and they're between situations. Once you get down that low, it's hard to get back up, and they'll fight fiercely for anything they've got left.

And yeah, the new Feist is pretty nice.
Caitlin Veronica Krausecaitfish on March 17th, 2007 06:39 am (UTC)
Believe me, I understand the great variety of circumstance very well. What kills me about this is that it's apparent that this man has *nothing* probably through no (or minor) fault of his own, he's just sick, old, and poor. And where's he going to go now?