A community lifeline
Eric Ehst, Executive Director
Recently, one of our long-time clients passed away. This is not an uncommon occurrence at Neighbors Who Care; our 1500 clients are mostly elderly (40 percent are over 85), frail (needing some assistance with everyday needs), and most live alone. When researching this gentleman’s record I was not surprised to find that he had no local next-of-kin (his closest relative was a nephew back east), but it was shocking to see that his only listed emergency contact was not a friend or a neighbor, but his once-a-week cleaning lady, Maria, whose last name he did not know.
Neighbors Who Care was truly this man’s lifeline. Our dinner delivery coordinator called him every day, checking on his well-being and taking his dinner order. Our caring volunteers delivered daily meals, making an extra effort to bring in his newspaper and mail. We drove him to medical appointments and took him shopping. We changed his light bulbs. Except for his once-a-week visits from Maria, our volunteers were almost the only contact he had with the outside world.
While Robert’s story is not typical, it’s also not unique. An increasing number of area residents are physically and socially isolated. Many moved here to retire with the active adult lifestyle. Now, years later, they find themselves alone; their spouses have passed away and they have no local family members. Like Robert, they’re homebound, in a community that has no accommodations for people who cannot drive or get around on their own. Their finances cannot cover the ever increasing cost of in-home care and accessible transportation.
This is where Neighbors Who Care (and hopefully you) comes in. Our volunteers do all of the things listed above and more. They perform the little tasks that many in our community can no longer do for themselves. Just as important, they provide the compassionate voice and smiling face that lets our clients know that they aren’t alone, that someone cares about them.
Over 20 years of helping our neighbors we’ve become very good at fulfilling the physical needs of those we serve. We’re now trying to lead the way in learning how to meet their social needs as well. Homebound and isolated people often become lonely and depressed. They have more health problems and, sometimes, shorter lives. We’re brainstorming new ways to keep our physically-challenged neighbors mentally active and connected to the community. This is a new frontier in aging and we need your help. We need more of those compassionate and caring volunteers I mentioned to keep doing the tasks we know how to do well. In addition, we need volunteers to help us figure out what more we can do and how we can do it to meet this new challenge. We also need the physical and financial resources to support the volunteers and to research new approaches. If you can’t join us as a volunteer, please consider making a tax-deductible donation.
Please contact us at 480-895-7133; www.neighborswhocare.com.