Salim is an 89-year-old Somali elder who was diagnosed with heart failure, diabetes, arthritis in both knees, and morbid obesity. When JFS care coordinator Hawa Samatar entered his apartment, his sense of hopelessness and isolation was apparent. “You see me and how I look, what can you do to help me?” After Hawa assured him there was a great deal they could accomplish, he laughed and said, “Sit down my sister.”
Hawa’s ability to speak Somali immediately put Salim at ease which made him more receptive to Hawa’s recommendations. He opened up and shared that he had kept many things secret from his son, Ben, because he did not want to be a burden. He depended on Ben for almost everything including socialization. Over time, Salim’s physical disabilities and despair eliminated his ability to try to get around and go downstairs in the lobby to socialize with other Somali elders in the building.
By articulating these feelings, it was clear how much socialization would mean to Salim. He asked Hawa to call his doctor and try to get him a wheelchair for a large person. “If I can get that, I will be happy and will not ask for anything else,” he said.
A few days later, Hawa received a phone call from Ben. “Can you believe my father is downstairs laughing and talking with the other Somali elders! I have not seen my father so happy for the last year! Thank you, thank you, thank you, and tell the people who sent you that I said thank you and may Allah bless them.”
But Salim’s new-found mobility and joy was only part of the outcome. “My father wants you to know that you have not only helped him, but you have also helped me tremendously,” explained Ben. “I can now stay on campus without worrying about my father feeling lonely. I know that if anything happens to him while he is downstairs with the other Somali elders, they will call me and 911.”