Caring for someone who has Alzheimer’s definitely takes its toll, both on a physical and emotional level.
As the disease progresses, the caregivers start taking on more and more of their loved one’s responsibilities, whether that’s going shopping, taking them to doctor’s appointments or maintaining the home. That’s hard enough, but on a psychological level, it’s devastating to realize your loved one no longer remembers the people and events they once held so dear.
Julie Bick of North Bend, Ohio, knows this toll all too well: Her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year, shortly after the death of her mother, so she and her two young children moved in with him so she could be his primary caregiver. Which she’s done the best she can, but a large part of it involves taking things away — like not letting him administer his own medications. Gone are the keys to his truck, and thus his freedom, and he’s no longer allowed to do all the yard work and other household chores that he’s always enjoyed.
“After some research, I found out that Alzheimer’s patients like routines and if you break them, they can get pretty upset and emotional,” she says.
But there’s one routine her father cherishes so much that she’ll never interfere with it: his weekly chats with the local garbage man, Harold. It’s a ritual he looks forward to every Monday morning, and she sometimes walks down the driveway with him to meet the garbage truck, other times she leaves them alone so they can talk in private. She knows how much her father looks forward to their weekly chats, and she knows Harold is prized throughout their community for his small yet thoughtful gestures:
If we miss Harold when he comes, he will always go the extra mile to walk our cans back to our garage. I’ve heard other neighbors say that Harold will even knock on your door if the pickup day is around a holiday and you have forgotten to take your garbage out.
On a recent Monday morning, Julie was feeling especially depressed and crying on the front porch, hidden away from her dad so he wouldn’t get upset himself. In the distance, she heard the rumble of the garbage truck as Harold made his way to the house, then saw her dad rooting around in the garage for a chair.
I asked what he was doing and offered my help. He said he needed a chair to sit down, as he is very unstable on his feet. I asked, “Where would you like the chair?” as I was carrying it out of the garage. He requested I take it to the end of the driveway so he can visit with Harold.
As we were walking to the end of the driveway, my father stops me and says, “Harold is my friend. He is religious and I would like a moment with Harold so we can pray for you.” I gave him his space and walked back to the porch with my eyes loading up with tears. I remember thinking to myself as I was walking back to the porch that no matter what disease my father has, it will never take away his love for me.
As she headed back to the house, she turned over her shoulder and was so moved by what she saw, she couldn’t resist taking this picture:
“A moment like that, you just don’t see every day,” she said.
This simple act of kindness has touched me so much. Harold has touched my heart and I knew I had to share this with friends and family on Facebook. I did, and many asked me to please make the post public so they can share it. I have and this single post has reached thousands. There is so much good in this world, and it starts with simple acts of kindness. Harold, thank you for your kindness and prayers. I will never forget this moment.
Harold’s been picking up the garbage at Julie’s dad’s house for years, but still, he doesn’t know much about the family other than they’ve always been friendly, and that her dad has Alzheimer’s. But despite being a friendly acquaintance, he took the time out of his route to share something so intimate and personal as a personal prayer.
Share to thank Harold for showing what true compassion means and to inspire more people to show love to their neighbors!