Jack

We Think We Know What’s Best for People

Jack lived in a crack house but he didn’t know it. He was tucked away in the back of an old Victorian that was converted into apartments fifteen years ago. His monthly Medicare disbursement and VA benefits afforded him rent, two TV dinners per day, and a monthly trip (via his treasured electric wheelchair) to the Dollar Store for Hershey bars. Jack was proud to say that since he had everything he needed, he managed to save $55 a month for over ten years for “emergencies.” At eighty-five, with his fingers planted in his suspenders, he felt “well off.”

He broke his back as a teenager carelessly diving into a shallow river full of boulders. These days he couldn’t take more than five steps without having to sit down. His back pain haunted him more than ever, “The cancer must be in my bones,” he said with certainty. He was also very short of breath. His cancer was in his lungs too.

He couldn’t stand in front of his microwave long enough to wait for his TV dinner to heat, so his doctor arranged to have the state provide him with a paid caregiver for a few hours a day. Jack wasn’t a complainer; he was an amazing example of humble. Not stoic, but simply grateful to be alive.

Mandy, the paid caregiver from the state, decided to move in for twenty-four hours a day. She brought her derelict boyfriend and his crack head brother too. The three of them, and all of their decaying stuff, had been living with Jack in his three hundred square foot apartment for ten months when I met them all.

His apartment was a cluttered disgusting grungy site; it smelled like mold and burning plastic. Mandy sat appearing frustrated behind an ancient sewing machine attempting to mend her boyfriend’s jeans. She was clearly high. She was hyperventilating, an couldn’t stop moving as she offered non-stop chatter about nothing related to Jack’s care. Her pasty white skin was covered in bright red pimples. Her stained white spandex mini skirt was hiked up over her hips seemingly without her noticing.

Mandy was in charge of Jack’s finances and medications. She held his debit card and his morphine. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that she was draining Jack’s savings to feed everybody’s habits. Jack’s medications were regularly “lost or spilled” and needed to be replaced often.

There was only one thing to do right? Get him out of there and get him the care he needed and deserved. Within twenty-four hours Jack was moved into a nursing home. Mandy and her strange company weren’t allowed to step foot on the property.

Jack soon fell into a deep depression. He said, “I feel lost, I have nobody.” He went on to say, “I know they were taking advantage of me, and I really didn’t like Mandy’s boyfriend’s personality, but they were my only company.”

We think we know what is best for people based on our experiences. Was moving Jack the best idea?

To learn more about Enduring Love – Inspiring Stories of Love and Wisdom at the End of Life

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