In July 2017 a woman called Xiao Xuan was at her local grocery store in the city of Tainan, Taiwan. In particular, she was there to get breakfast with her boy; while at the location, however, she spotted something a little out of the ordinary. This sight in turn would provoke an unusual exchange that, in time, would also lead to a pretty exceptional act. At first, however, Xiao was taken aback when her eyes fell upon an old man at one of the counters. The individual had no pants on, was clearly wearing a diaper and was trying to make a purchase.
What’s more, it appeared that the senior was in a state of some confusion. And the sad scene and the aged man’s behavior suggested to the concerned woman that he may have been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Xiao’s own grandfather had had the condition, after all, and so she recognized the signs.
However, Xiao was also struck by how patient the cashiers were in dealing with the elderly gent. As she watched on, the old man insisted that he wanted to buy bottles of milk in bulk. Xiao could hear one of the counter staff telling the man calmly and kindly, though, that he could only buy four bottles at a time.
Then, however, the confused senior citizen made another demand: he now wanted a large bottle of milk as well. But instead of refusing the man’s wishes outright, the cashier made a compromise; after all, the customer is always right. Indeed, Xiao heard him telling the elderly man, “Okay, you can only buy this big bottle of milk. You cannot buy those small bottles, or else you won’t be able to finish them.”
And Xiao was really surprised at this attitude from the staff of the store. Surely the owners would want to maximize their profits and sell as much milk as possible. The old man clearly had the money to pay for the items he wanted, too. And, despite his rather confused appearance, his demands were also more than straightforward enough to be understood. So, Xiao understandably wondered why the cashier was preventing him from having what he wanted.
Subsequently, the old man bought his milk and left the convenience store. And as Xiao had thought that the strange exchange was over, she was thrown by what happened next: after the elderly shopper had exited through the door, the cashier casually followed him out. Xiao would even take pictures of the store employee following the old man down the street. And, a little while later, the woman was still at the store when the cashier came back alone.
So, Xiao asked the cashier what had just transpired. And the truth behind the store worker’s impromptu walkabout was pretty heartwarming. It turned out that the old man regularly visited that particular grocery outlet and had done for years. As a result, the cashiers there were well aware of him and knew that he only needed a certain amount of milk.
In essence, the Tainan store’s employees had taken to looking out for the old guy – with one worker in particular lending him a hand. When the elderly gent had left the store, then, the young man on the till had followed him home to ensure that he had arrived safe and sound. The cashier had even offered to carry the old man’s bag for him.
And, reportedly, this was by no means the first time that the employee had carried out this simple act of charity for the elderly store patron. Indeed, as the old man frequently stopped by to buy his milk, the employee often walked him home thereafter. Xiao, meanwhile, was touched by this selfless behavior and wanted to pay tribute to it. To that end, the woman posted her photographs of the entire exchange online.
And Xiao’s social media post commemorating the compassionate cashier’s kindness quickly went viral. Her Facebook update racked up almost 45,000 reactions from users, in fact. In addition, Xiao’s post was swiftly shared more than 3,000 times, proving that good news travels fast. Essentially, the online community were touched by the thoughtfulness and humanity shown to the old man and talked warmly about the uplifting tale.
One Facebook user commented on the post, for example, “Our society needs someone like [the cashier]. I applaud him for his kindness.” Another wrote, “He is so thoughtful. What a heart-warming story.” The convenience store tale then spread far and wide across the globe.
But although the story of the cashier and the confused old man had a somewhat happy ending, the truth is that Alzheimer’s disease is a sad and serious problem. Furthermore, it is getting significantly worse, as suggested by a groundbreaking 2017-published study by the University of California, Los Angeles. In particular, the research claims that the number of Alzheimer’s sufferers in the U.S. may hit 15 million by 2060. What’s more, in excess of six million Americans and their families are already having to cope with the impact of the dreaded disease.
Alarmingly, the study also revealed that as many as 47 million U.S. citizens exhibit some early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. This represents a public health time bomb which could easily blow up into a crisis. And although many families would doubtlessly try to support any loved ones stricken by the disease, those without relatives to call on will be particularly vulnerable.
In addition, with the best will in the world, this type of support simply won’t be enough for some sufferers. Indeed, the University of California study also suggests that of the potential 15 million people with Alzheimer’s in 2060, four million of these will require professional round-the-clock care. Obviously, in financial terms alone, this has the potential to cripple the current U.S. healthcare infrastructure.
Alzheimer’s disease itself, meanwhile, generally affects those over the age of 60 and is caused when abnormal proteins accumulate in the brain. Consequently, the proteins kill certain nerve cells, and so vital brain functions are impaired. This can then cause the afflicted to become confused, experience changes in mood and behavior and suffer memory loss. And while the degenerative disease progresses at different rates for different people, the ultimate outcome is always the same: death.
And, unfortunately, Ron Brookmeyer, lead author of the University of California, Los Angeles, report, would emphasize the study’s devastating findings. “There are about 47 million people in the U.S. today who have some evidence of preclinical Alzheimer’s,” he is quoted as saying in a UCLA press release. “[This] means they have either a build-up of protein fragments called beta-amyloid or neuro-degeneration of the brain but don’t yet have symptoms.”
Furthermore, as the U.S. medical system has limited resources, Brookmeyer believes that it is vital to pinpoint who will contract the disease ahead of time. He added, “Many of them will not progress to Alzheimer’s dementia in their lifetimes. We need to have improved methods to identify which persons will progress to clinical symptoms and develop interventions.”
It is also important to bear in mind that Alzheimer’s symptoms typically present themselves in later life. Frequently, they are mild at first, sometimes manifesting as mood swings or disorientation. It is only during advanced stages of the disease, in fact, that patients develop memory loss, impairment of movement and even an inability to feed themselves.
And Dr. David Reynolds, lead scientist at the charity Alzheimer’s Research U.K., would speak about the progress of the condition in a November 2017 interview with The Financial Times. He said, “We are diagnosing the disease far too late. At the moment, it usually happens through cognitive testing when you go to your doctor with thinking and memory problems. [However,] we know the disease will have started 20 years earlier.”
Reynolds continued, “There is a lot of research showing that a healthy lifestyle can have a marked effect on your risks of developing dementia.” Hopefully, then, if we take Reynolds’ words on board, fewer of us will need to be assisted from the grocery store. Nevertheless, it is still heartwarming to hear of one Taiwanese Alzheimer’s sufferer getting home safely and experiencing the milk of human kindness.