Between the loneliness, the health issues, and the loss of independence, life for residents of eldercare facilities can often be demoralizing. And it can be even more demoralizing when one’s most vital support systems fail them in their time of need, which is why this story is so devastating: This elderly woman’s family thinks she’s lying about the fact that ALF is a janitor at her nursing home and that he sometimes bullies her.
Wow. It really breaks your heart to hear stories like this.
Since moving into Heritage Manor Nursing Center four months ago, 92-year-old Virginia Robkin has been receiving regular—and often upsetting—visits from a custodian named ALF, an extraterrestrial creature with a sardonic and twisted sense of humor. Robkin frequently calls her family members to complain about the janitor, who has inexplicably taken a cruel interest in her and often finds little ways to harass or intimidate her, like shrieking his grotesque alien mating call right into her ear when she’s trying to sleep, but her complaints fall on deaf ears. No matter what concerns she raises, whether it’s about ALF putting her treasured belongings on a high shelf so she can’t reach them, purposefully neglecting to restock her toilet paper, or eating her beloved cat, Sprinkles, right in front of her, Robkin’s cries for help are always immediately dismissed by her family as senile delusions, despite the fact that she is still of sharp mind in her old age.
“When I told my daughter, Gloria, what was happening, she acted like I was losing my marbles and tried to get me to go to a doctor, even though I showed her proof that ALF works here,” said Robkin, explaining that she had previously linked her daughter to the staff page on the nursing home’s website, on which ALF is indeed listed, yet her daughter hadn’t even bothered to look. “She thinks I’m just being an old racist coot and calling my Haitian nurse ALF, but I would never say anything derogatory about Josué. ALF works here, and he bullies me, and it saddens me that no one will believe me.”
“Just this morning I called my son, David, and told him about how last night ALF came into my room while I was sleeping and whispered, ‘I’m gonna fuck up your tub, bitch,’ before going into the bathroom, shaving himself head to toe, and stuffing all his fur down my shower drain,” she continued. “And David hung up on me! He thought I was just rambling and got fed up. And now I don’t know who to turn to for help with my tub, because when I brought up the issue with the facility manager here, guess who he sent to unclog the drain? That’s right, ALF. I just feel so helpless.”
Sadly, Robkin’s complaints about ALF have seemingly affected her family’s willingness to engage with her, as it has been over a month since any outside visitors have come to see her. And, unfortunately, this isolation has only emboldened ALF to behave more aggressively toward her, as he recently woke Robkin up in the middle of the night to let her know that when he finishes the spaceship he’s nearly done building, he is going to take her to his home planet of Melmac and sell her to a zoo where ALF’s “thousands of children” will go every day to throw firecrackers at her.
Tragically, stories like Robkin’s are increasingly common in America, as all too often elderly individuals are neglected by loved ones who see them as burdens. We can only hope that Robkin’s family realizes that she’s not lying before ALF takes his bullying any further, because nobody—especially not a woman in her nineties—deserves to be treated this way.