I had an unexpected experience this afternoon, and I can't get it out of my mind. I had been helping my friend Ronit carry some things into her apartment, and we were waiting by the elevator when a door down the hall opened. It was an elderly woman looking for a nurse to clean her up from an accident. After only a few moments, it became obvious that this women suffered from rather advanced dementia, and that she should not be living alone.
She has a nurse, but does not know the nurse's name or phone number. She has a son, but does not know his phone number. According to other neighbors, who had come back after trying in vain to find the super, the son had been taken away by the police, because the woman had complained about his treatment of her. She thinks she had a stroke a while back, but isn't sure. She's apparently left alone in a large apartment building, with no way to contact the outside world.
I went in to her apartment to clean her up and change her into a clean, dry set of clothes. She didn't know where her clean clothes were kept. Or if she had a laundry bin. She's confused and scared, and virtually helpless. And while I was there, she asked me if I would come back. "Will you come back and check on me?" she asked. "To make sure I'm not dead?"
I said that I would. What else could I say? But I have no way to get into the building, so I can't possibly check on her. I left her my name and phone number, which she misplaced a moment later. So I put it directly into her hand, although I knew that she'd either lose it, or forget who I am and why she's supposed to call me.
When I left, I called the Department on Aging. And I called 911, so that the police could check on her. I don't even have a way of following up and making sure that the police went over there, and that she is ok. I have no way of knowing if this poor woman is alright.
I know that there's little more I can do. Tomorrow, I'll try to contact the building management, and let them know that I'm the one who notified the police, and see if I can find out more about this woman, so that she can get the care she needs. My wonderful mother, who has been a clinical social worker for over 30 years, will call the Department on Aging and make a report as a professional.
Logically, I know that I've done everything within my power. Emotionally, however, I feel like I haven't done enough. I keep asking myself 'What else? What more?' But I have no answers, and the helplessness is eating at me.