Many of our website visitors have shared stories with us that are just too good not to share with everyone. Some of the stories describe programs and services provided by the Older Americans Act and other programs for older persons that are making a difference in communities across the country; some describe challenges people are experiencing caring for their loved ones, and some are just wonderful examples of innovation and the American "can do" spirit of people helping people. Some of those stories appear in our monthly enewsletters but we want to make sure that we share them with all our website visitors too. Please feel free to send in your story, and we will consider it for posting on our website as well.
Have you submitted your story yet? These personal stories can be submitted through AoA’s website.
AoA Nutrition Program Participant Stories
Mr. B, from the Turtle Mountain Band of the Chippewa Tribe, is 70 years old, diabetic and has one leg amputated. His family has deserted him. All of his needs are met by the Retirement Home and the Tribal Elders Nutrition and Supportive Services Program. Among the services provided under the Older Americans Act to Mr. B are transportation to the Dialysis Treatment Center three time a week, two meals each day seven days a week, and recreational activities. Without these services, Mr. B would not eat. He would probably have to be institutionalized.
Mr. D is a 66 year old man who lives in a rural, mountainous area. He lives in a small cabin with no running water, but is equipped with a refrigerator, propane cooking stove and wood stove for heating. Mr. D hauls in his own water. A weatherization program filled the holes in the walls of the cabin and replaced the front door. Because of Mr. D's isolated location, the nutrition program delivered Total Meal System boxes. These provide five complete, nutritionally-balanced frozen meals that can be heated. A local pastor helps him with tasks that he is unable to take care of by himself. These community and formal support programs are vital to continue his preferred isolated residence.
“Dear Nutrition Center: I wish to thank you for being there, caring and cooking a wholesome meal, not only for my mother, but other elderly people as well. My mother is 91, lives alone and has very poor eyesight. It is satisfying to me that this program is such that she is picked up each noon, and taken to the center for a wholesome meal and a social hour with friends and neighbors. This gives her a time away from home and breaks up her day. It also means someone is checking up on her each day and that relieves my mind knowing someone will be knocking on her door and be of help if needed.”
“Dear Meals on Wheels: I'm writing in regards to my sister, ML, receiving your heaven-sent Meals on Wheels. Before this she had lots of colds, flu and ear infections. Partly because of having to brave the elements to get groceries and also being impaired functionally, her knowledge of nutrition was nil. I'm almost certain they were not nutritionally balanced meals. She was often anemic. It relieves my mind to know she's getting food and tasty meals. She's gained weight.”
“I am a user of the Nutrition Program. I'd be lost without it! The companionship and fellowship as well as the nutritious meals keep me getting up in the mornings, getting dressed and to the site to eat!” C, now deceased, was 103 year old homebound client. She was in a state that she would not even have gotten dressed if it wasn't for the daily home-delivered meal. For her 100th birthday, the Senior Center gave her a party for being the oldest resident in the town.
Submitted by Jean Lloyd
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Valentine's Day Tribute
In celebration of Valentine's Day, we created a video featuring three couples who reside at Cerenity Senior Care in St. Paul and South St. Paul, MN. They share how they met, what makes their relationship special and tips. One couple has been married for 71 years. Below is a link to the video. If the link does not work, there is a link on our website, http://www.cerenityseniorcare.org.
Submitted by Paula Mielke
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Pension Assistance Project Making a Difference
The New England Pension Assistance Project (NEPAP) recently helped a 72-year old widow from Connecticut with a frightening pension problem. After receiving her pension from a large corporation for over 20 years, she was told that she had been receiving the wrong amount and actually owed the plan almost $17,000. She was afraid she might lose her house. Without resources to pay this back or hire an attorney, she found NEPAP, which filed a legal claim requesting that the plan waive the overpayment. We then negotiated a modest monthly repayment of $25 per month. Our client was relieved and overjoyed.
In addition, NEPAP helped a 63 -year-old man from Attleboro, Massachusetts to find a lost pension. He had worked for 11 years as a machine operator for the laminated products division of a paper company. He had been laid off in 1979 but had a letter telling him that he would get a monthly pension of $111 when he reached retirement age. He had no idea who to contact about this pension. NEPAP investigated, and found that the company had been sold twice in the intervening years, and at some point, our client's name was inadvertently dropped from the pension records. Our inquiry caused the current successor company to review the old records, and to agree that our client is entitled to a lifetime monthly benefit of $111. This small amount makes a big difference to the client, whose only other income is from Social Security retirement benefits.
Submitted by Jeanne Medeiros.
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Our nonprofit, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey recently began a “Caregiver Canines” program. Certified therapy dogs visit the frail, elderly in their homes
and also visit with those with dementia and their caregivers. We are somewhat unique, because most therapy dog programs visit institutions like Nursing Homes, schools,
etc. and those who are dog lovers and can't care for them miss this special companionship.
We recently matched a lovely golden retriever named Simon with Mark who has Alzheimer's disease (AD). Mark has been a life-long dog lover, but is now in the middle stages of AD and is quite withdrawn doesn't communicate much. His wife, Marie is his main caregiver and his daughter Suzanne lives near by. When the volunteer dog handler (Pat) and Simon came to visit the first time, they took a walk together. During the walk, Mark began to talk about the dogs he had when he was younger and his recent withdrawn personality completely changed. When Marie and Suzanne saw his old personality shine through they began to cry because they realized how much they missed the man that they loved. Simon and Pat come to visit every week and bring incredible joy to this family. When we started this program, we never realized the power of the dog/human connection, but we are so glad to be a part of this and hope that other
nonprofits can incorporate this as well.
Submitted by Lynette Whiteman
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Volunteers are Vital
I am an Adult Protective Services Social Worker in Door County, Wisconsin. Our agency is working in collaboration with our local aging unit (Door County Senior Resource Center) to expand meal delivery to homebound seniors in our community. We are geographically challenged and have only a limited radius for meals on wheels delivery. We are working to expand our frozen meal program to address the needs of those seniors who are not in the MOW’s delivery area. Despite budget constraints, we are hopeful that we can be successful - thanks in part to vital volunteers. We are going to partner with other organizations (such as churches throughout the county) and utilize volunteers to assist with packaging and delivering meals. This service is crucial to enable our quickly aging population to live their “golden years” with safety, independence and good health. We hope President Obama's call to action will motivate even more of our citizens to assist us in making this goal a reality through volunteer service.
Submitted by Erin Szakala
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Appreciating a Caregiver
I am a 58 year old female living in central New Hampshire. I have been married for 33 years and we have one daughter. In 1988, I learned I had multiple sclerosis and that was the “good” news. Prognosis and progression were unpredictable and my (our) life became wait and see what happens next. I worked as a federal projects bookkeeper with our local school system. Years of slow, continuing decline followed. I made adjustments and kept going for 20 years. Bladder issues required self-cathing at work. Then as walking became more difficult, I devised a push-club of my co-worker friends to push me in my desk chair to the bathroom door when needed. In June of 2008 when rising from a chair required lifting and independent standing was impossible, I had to stop working. My husband, life-partner has been with me through it all. He has been an extraordinary caregiver in all respects – from housekeeper to nurse. I feel so, so blessed.
Submitted by Sandra Finnie
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F.I.S.H. Volunteers on Call to Transport Seniors
The Sudbury (MA) Senior Center’s F.I.S.H. (Friends In Service Helping) volunteer medical rides program arranged 1,791 free rides to medical appointments over a recent 12-month period.
Drivers take adults of any age to medical appointments in the greater Boston area, and as far west as Worcester. The 3,248 hours of volunteer time had an equivalent value of $15 an hour, equating to a donation of $48,720. The actual donation was even greater because the volunteers use their own automobiles and donate the cost of the gas. Several riders use FISH routinely. Some use the program to get to dialysis treatments. It is a source of pride that the program is so reliable that it can consistently offer this life-or-death service.
One rider sent a thank you note to the Senior Center which said, “Your wonderful drivers are like Christmas gifts spread throughout the year.” F.I.S.H. requests a week’s notice for rides, but can usually handle last minute requests as well. For example, last winter the Senior Center received a call from a cancer treatment center in Westford, MA. An 80 year old woman who lives alone had driven herself there for surgery to remove a skin cancer from her nose. The treatment was extensive, taking almost four hours and resulting in a large bandage that partially obscured her vision. The doctor was adamant that she was unsafe to drive herself home. F.I.S.H. was called and two people went, one to drive the senior home and the other to drive her car home for her.
Submitted by Kristin Kiesel, Sudbury Senior Center.
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Volunteers Join Forces to Distribute Meals
I am an Adult Protective Services Social Worker in Door County, Wisconsin. Our agency is working in collaboration with our local aging unit (Door County Senior Resource Center) to expand meal delivery to homebound seniors in our community. We are geographically challenged and have only a limited radius for meals on wheels delivery. We are working to expand our frozen meal program to address the needs of those seniors who are not in the MOWs delivery area. Despite budget constraints, we are hopeful that we can be successful - thanks in part to vital volunteers. We are going to partner with other organizations (such as churches throughout the county) and utilize volunteers to assist with packaging and delivering meals. This service is crucial to enable our quickly aging population to live their “golden years” with safety, independence and good health. We hope President Obama's call to action will motivate even more of our citizens to assist us in making this goal a reality through volunteer service.
Submitted by Erin Szakala, Door County, WI.
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Loveland Village Lives Up to Its Name
They say that love is what makes the world go round. If someone is looking for love, Good Samaritan Society, Loveland Village is the place to find it. The residents, staff and volunteers work together to spread their love throughout the community in many different ways. From the Valentine re-mailing program to Relay for Life, Loveland Village is sure to have a team of volunteers. Many residents love to knit and crochet; an art that has not died through the ages.
Last year a group of residents and staff members got together, with the help of the director of wellness, Vicki McCarger, and started a biweekly “pay it forward” knitting group. They’ve recently renamed themselves the “Coed Wool Workers”. They gather together and create not only practical items for use, but tall tales and laughter weave through the hooks, needles, and yarn. Amongst the laughter and fun, these residents are making a difference in the community. They make tiny baby hats for newborns at McKee Medical Center, adult size hats for those at the homeless shelters, and lap robes for the McKee Cancer Center that not only warm the patients, but warm hearts and spirits as well.
Why do they do it? Richard says he loves the idea of spreading good will and giving back to the community. Some like the snacks and sociability of the group while Marion says it just plain “keeps us out of mischief.” From knitting raffle items for the Alzheimer’s society to crocheting shawls for Good Samaritan residents, “paying it forward&rdqluo; and spreading love is what keeps Loveland Village a special place for the whole community. Love really does make the world go round.
Submitted by Holly Haubold, Good Samaritan Society, Loveland, CO.
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Ready to Help
I am a 67-year old male in DeWitt Charter Township Michigan. I live in a retirement community (55 and older) of 227 manufactured (modular)homes with approx. 350 residents - approx. 105 homes are occupied by single women who have lost a spouse since move-in. The average age by rule is 75. One year ago, in May, we certified 17 residents as a Community Emergency Reaction Team (CERT) - the oldest member of our team is 83. We simply want to be ready to help our neighbors in a time of need. We are ready.
Submitted by William Ozbun
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Caregiver story – Sometimes needs a break
I will try to make this short. My sudden change in life style came last year when all of a sudden my husband had six heart attacks in one day, then a month later he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had a third of his lung removed. All of a sudden I had to become a caregiver. I love the man dearly but it can be taxing, not to back away from caring for him, but there are times I could just use a day for a break.
Submitted by Janice Maestri.
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Helping the Entire Community by Helping Others
Clinton County Office on Aging (OFA) received a phone call from a local professor at SUNY Plattsburgh who was interested in Alternative Spring Break. Many students from State University of New York Plattsburgh head out to various parts of the world, like Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua for alternative spring break. The professor is also a member of the Plattsburgh Noontime Rotary International Club wanted to help people in Clinton County also. He organized business members and students in a very short period to help three elderly consumers in our county. The newly formed non-profit group asked OFA and senior services for a few consumers who might not fit into existing programs, but might need help with some home improvements. The group was able to repair the homes with volunteer labor and at no costs to the elderly consumers. This is a quote from their website, “In these times, the North Country comes together to help those who are struggling. At the same time, we stimulate a flagging economy through spending here in our community. A number of community members, especially those involved with the Plattsburgh Noontime Rotary International Club, believe the best economic stimulus plan is one that mobilizes local effort and stimulates local purchases. We can help the entire community by helping others.”
Submitted by Crystal L. Carter, Director, Clinton County Office for the Aging, NY
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