Are You Really Any Better?

Apathy, hoarding, and isolation impact everyone.

The story of a 75-year-old woman who paramedics rescued after discovering she was molded to her chair for a year really struck a nerve with me. She was a hoarder and was too weak to move out of the chair, so she was just stuck there. No neighbors came to check on her. Her family didn’t either. One person from her church had been bringing her food for about a year. He’d never seen her move from the chair, but he noticed she was in an altered state this week. Since he’d been coming in and out for about a year, and had grown accustomed to the smell & the sights, he is the one many are pointing fingers at. Give me a break.

He is no more responsible than her family or neighbors. In fact, it makes sense that he would block things out to bring food to her everyday. Besides, he’s elderly. He is older than she was. He may not have even realized the gravity of what’s going on.

As people trash him, without trashing the other people in her life, I wonder how these people go about their lives. Do they know their neighbors? Do they check on them? How many of them have a relative that they know has no real support system? Everyone has a friend or acquaintance or relative that has all-but been abandoned by the world. While they sit their being outraged at this old man, why don’t they take stock of their own apathy?

Hoarding isn’t an unusual problem in America or in the world. It’s actually rather common. Unfortunately, most hoarders have some level of social isolation in their lives. It’s not always because they want to cut themselves off from the world. Sometimes it’s that the world has cut them out because they aren’t mobile or healthy enough, because they’re awkward around family, because they collect weird things, because they’re old, etc. Mental and neurological disorders are often found in hoarders, so you would hope they’d have support from empathetic relatives or friends or disability-oriented social services, but that’s simply not the case for many. Not having that little bit of backing just makes things worse for them.

This woman had no support except some guy bringing her food everyday. No one felt shame or disgust over that. No one was worrying about why she couldn’t stand up when they would walk past her house everyday; news claimed you could smell the feces & urine from the street. No one cared until that single soul called 911 to get her some help. And now he’s the one they’re heaping blame on? I can only guess they’d have the same reaction if another hoarder or home-bound person in their life was left in the same situation & they’d been too apathetic to check on them.

Maybe they should get off social media and go check on those folks they haven’t heard from in a while. Maybe they should admit that they are part of the problem here. If they want to wring their hands, they should focus on their failings as they do so.

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