When Alisha first stepped into her caregiver role 15 years ago, she didn’t know what to expect nor what services were out there to assist her. She happened into this role rather gradually as her widowed mother grew older and lost her independence bit by bit. “But, she never truly lost her independence and I was able to keep her home where she belonged,” commented Alisha.
Alisha was 55 when her 88-year-old widowed mother suffered a stroke and lost much of her mobility. “By that time she had already downsized significantly and had asked my younger brother, who had recently divorced to move in with her.” Patrick, however, needed to work during the day and sometimes on weekends. Alisha worked part time, but had three young daughters who also needed her. The family still needed help.
The call to LOA began with a legal question. An appointment was made for Alisha and her mom to meet with an attorney at the LOA office who was able to get a simple will drawn up and establish power of attorney. The family later had a case manager come to the home to determine eligibility for Meals on Wheels.
“It was easy and simple and the smartest thing we have ever done,” said Alisha. The family had peace of mind during the day know their legal affairs were in order and that a hot meal was being delivered to the home since no one else was available during the day to provide one.
Alisha’s mother passed away six years ago and never had to spend one day outside of the home. “This was a priority for me and I knew I could not have done it without the assistance of LOA.”
Last year, Patrick, who had just turned 60, suffered a major heart attack. Alisha found herself in the caregiver role again. “This time I was prepared and immediately called LOA,” she said.
Patrick receives Meals on Wheels and was referred for home health services. “This had been a different path because we expect to care for our parents, but never our younger siblings. I’m thankful for having already had some experience with it,” said Alisha.
Cooling Assistance Helps Senior Remain at Home
Allow us to introduce you to Jack. Jack is an 81-year-old Salem resident who is fiercely independent. He lives at home and relies on his sister, who lives nearby, to provide him with transportation to and from doctors’ appointments and church on Sundays.
Jack is homebound and loves sitting on his front porch and enjoying the day. He has managed to live on his own for several years with the help of his sister, a few thoughtful neighbors and the Local Office on Aging. For the past two years he has received Meals on Wheels, which allows him to enjoy a nutritional lunch delivered every weekday by area volunteers. And of course, this time of year, he is almost always sitting on his front porch when the meals arrive.
But in the afternoons when the temperature starts to climb, Jack needs something more refreshing than what his front porch can provide. “When I first turned my air conditioner on this year it wasn’t working right. I tried to fiddle with it and fix it, but it tripped a breaker and I lost power,” said Jack. “It was in the house when I moved here so I don’t know how old it was.”
He admits that he looked into getting a used window unit AC, but was worried about its reliability. He didn’t want to risk the safety of his home to a faulty unit. And like many seniors, he is on a fixed income and couldn’t afford to put money into a used unit that might not work and could certainly not afford a new unit.
“My sister called LOA for me,” he recalls with a smile. When Jack and his sister visited the Local Office on Aging they met with Elaine Engleman, LOA Senior Services Coordinator, who approved him for a new AC window unit through the Cooling Assistance Program. LOA’s annual Fan Care and Cooling Assistance Programs provide fans and air conditioners free of charge to seniors 60 and older who are on a limited income and without any other source of cooling in their home.
Many seniors have medical conditions for which overheating can be deadly. LOA’s Cooling Assistance Program helps combat heat stress brought on by high temperatures. As the thermometer starts to climb, the risk of heat stress increases. Hot weather can strain older persons’ bodies, especially the heart. Some prescription drugs may also reduce the ability to cope with hot weather.
Jack says he refuses to think of what he would have done had the LOA been unable to help him. “I can’t afford to buy much, so risking it on a used air conditioner is too much,” he said. Jack received his new air conditioner on a warm, sunny day in June. His neighbor helped him install it that same day and he slept peacefully that night.
Donations toward the purchase of fans and air conditioners are being accepted at LOA’s new central office location at 4932 Frontage Road NW, Roanoke, Va., 24019. LOA also accepts donations of NEW fans and air conditioners for distribution. For more information or to make a donation, visit us online at: http://www.loaa.org/services/critical-assistance/fan-care/
The annual Fan Care and Cooling Assistance Programs are sponsored locally by Virginia Power, American Electric Power and the Local Office on Aging.
LOA Meals on Wheels Helped Me Remain in My Home
Jerry suffered a major stroke at the young age of 61. The stroke left him wheelchair bound and with limited use of his right hand and arm. His speech and his vision were also affected. At first, his wife was able to care for him until she was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer just two years after Jerry’s stroke. At this point, both Jerry and his wife needed assistance and were at a crossroads they never imagined. Who was going to care for them and how were they going to stay in their own home?
When they were first referred to Meals-on-Wheels, their only daughter, Cindy, was trying to manage their care but felt overburdened, as many caregivers do. She is part of the “sandwich generation,” which means she is caring for her parents as well as her teenage children that are still in the home, all while trying to work a full-time job. It was at this point that Cindy reached out to LOA for help.
Jerry has been on the Meals-on-Wheels program for a little over two years now and his wife was on the program for a month before she passed away. Jerry is always sitting at his kitchen table, in his motorized wheelchair, waiting on the volunteers to come. With tears in his eyes, he said the volunteers are usually the only people that he sees besides his daughter and her family. He says he waves to the neighbors but it has not been the same since the stroke because he cannot get out to visit them. He also looks forward to the hot meals and eats them right away. Due to the stroke it is very difficult for him to use a stove or even a microwave.
His daughter says Meals-on-Wheels has helped her maintain her full-time job and gives her peace of mind knowing that someone is checking on him at lunch. She feels that Meals-on-Wheels has allowed him to safely stay in his own home after his wife passed away and does not know what she would do without the program.
Last year, in LOA’s service area which includes the rural county of Botetourt where Jerry resides, 847 seniors lived healthier and safer in their own homes because volunteers provided friendly visits and well-being checks while delivering 129,797 meals.
Local Office on Aging Celebrates Older Americans Month This May
Across the country, a rapidly growing population of older Americans are taking part this month in activities that promote wellness and social connection in observance of Older Americans Month. They are sharing their wisdom and experience with future generations, and are giving back to enrich their communities. They’re working and volunteering, mentoring and learning, leading and engaging. The Local Office on Aging invites you to participate!
For 55 years, Older Americans Month has recognized older Americans and their contributions to our communities. Led by the Administration for Community Living’s Administration on Aging, every May offers opportunities to hear from, support, and celebrate our nation’s elders. This year’s theme, “Engage at Every Age,” emphasizes the importance of being active and involved, no matter where or when you are in life. You are never too old (or too young) to participate in activities that can enrich your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
It is becoming more apparent that remaining socially engaged can improve the quality of life for older adults. When the Local Office on Aging thinks “Engage at Every Age,” our many wonderful and dedicated older volunteers immediately come to mind. LOA’s Meals on Wheels volunteers not only add to the social and nutritional welfare of this community’s homebound elderly, they are enriching their own lives and remaining young by contributing to the lives of others. The same holds true for LOA’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Volunteer Master Trainers, LOA’s very knowledgeable Insurance Counselors, LOA’s varied Soup for Seniors volunteers, and the many others who come to us to aid in different endeavors.
Ellie has been a dedicated Soup for Seniors volunteer for the past six years. She started out picking up at a few of the drop-off sites and moved on to delivering door to door. Now, she knows many of those she delivers to by name and looks forward to the time she gets to spend with them each February. “Giving means getting something in return,” she says. “What I put into being a volunteer always comes back to me. The time spent with these seniors can change your life and theirs.”
Harold has been a LOA Meals on Wheels volunteer for 13 years. He gets up every morning, but says he particularly enjoys getting up on the mornings he is scheduled to deliver his route. “I feel closer to those that I deliver to than I do to some members of my family,” he said. “I guess that makes them family.”
Harold started delivering meals with his wife. After she become ill, he continued to volunteer with the LOA, while caring for his wife at home. “Volunteering provided that sense of normalcy that was much needed at a very stressful time in my life,” he shared. “I became more vested in my volunteer role, realizing how much the service I was providing was needed.”
“The LOA was recognized this year as having delivered more Meals on Wheels than any other agency in Virginia. We were able to attain that recognition because of the many volunteers who help us make the meal delivery possible,” said Ron Boyd, LOA CEO. “We value the contributions made by all of our volunteers and the seniors we serve every day. It was an easy decision to celebrate Older Americans Month, with the theme Engage at Every Age in honor of them.”