True Stories of Seniors Helped
“Charles,“ 78 years old:
It was the hottest week of the summer when Charles, a 78-year-old gentleman living in Harmar, called us. He desperately needed services and had no food. We first visited him with emergency food and to do an in-home assessment during a torrential downpour. His dark, damp home was full of mold and clutter; almost two inches of water covered the kitchen floor, and ceiling tiles were falling in around him.
A retired steel worker, Charles was divorced with no children; his only known family is in his native Austria. He no longer could drive to his doctorís appointments, to the grocery store or to pick up his prescriptions. He knew he needed to find more suitable living arrangements, but he didnít know where to turn.
Open Your Heart to a Senior Volunteer, Nancy, stepped up to help. Nancy took Charles to a much-needed doctorís appointment for which he was very appreciative. We connected him with other services (including a local food pantry, and pharmacy that delivers) that will keep him safe and secure in his home until he can find a more suitable place to live. He has applied to several senior housing complexes and should be moving to a safer, more comfortable home soon.
Because of the generosity of our Open Your Heart to a Senior volunteers, this senior with the charming European accent and warm, soft, grateful eyes is no longer cold, hungry or forgotten.
“Pat,“ 82 years old:
“Pat“ is a retired therapist for a local non-profit whose husband had been a non-profit executive. Since her husbandís death, she has been diagnosed with Parkinsonís Disease as well as extremely low blood pressure that affects her balance. She no longer drives due to her medical condition, and her children, though local, are often unavailable to take their mother to the many medical appointments that occur during the day. Pat also enjoys grocery shopping on her own, but needs a companion as she goes through the store as well as someone to help bring her groceries into her home. After an initial visit and a few phone calls, several volunteers from her area stepped forward to take her to the local market and to three medical appointments that she had scheduled in three consecutive days. As someone who understands the value of volunteer service from her own work experience, she was thrilled to get such a great response to her needs. Our volunteers found their time with her to be just as rewarding.
“Gert,“ 79 years old:
“Gert“ is the 79 year old widow of a career military man who died suddenly and unexpectedly. She is legally blind and finds that, while her medical appointments are all local, her inablilty to read the signs on the buses make getting to and from the doctor a challenge that she is timid to take. “Sheri,“ responded to our volunteer training opportunity in her area, and began helping Gert get to and from local medical appointments. This was a blessing as Gert is a Coumadin patient who needs to have blood tests taken every other week to monitor her medication. Sheri not only sets aside time in her schedule to take Gert, but she schedules her appointments on line so that Gert does not have to wait at the lab. And, when Sheri had some family medical issues of her own, another volunteer, “Don“, quickly stepped in to take Gert to medical appointments following a fall in her home.
Mr. Och's Story
According to Carol Diethorn, Kenneth Ochs was a bit of a daredevil in his day. And he’s got the stories to prove it.
“When you’re 91, you’ve got all kinds of stories to tell,” Carol says of Mr. Ochs, who she spends time with every week as a volunteer with Open Your Heart to a Senior, an initiative of United Way of Allegheny County in cooperation with Family Services of Western Pennsylvania and North Hills Community Outreach.
“I used to be really active and was a tennis pro for a long time,” Mr. Ochs explains, “but my eyes became gradually worse and now I don’t see.”
Carol accompanies Mr. Ochs on walks through South Park once or twice a week and both enjoy not only the exercise, but the company. “Carol is really good; she leads me so I don’t traipse anywhere I shouldn’t be,” he says with a laugh.
Laughter seems to be a regular part of their routine. During their mile-long walks, they exchange stories of their lives and share advice.
“It’s funny,” Carol confides, “he thinks he’s the care recipient, but he’s really doing more for me than I do for him. I get so much out of it and come home feeling great.”
Currently unemployed and looking for a new job, Carol saw an opportunity to volunteer as a way to do something that gives her meaning. “It really puts perspective on things,” she says of her experience with Mr. Ochs and other seniors she drives to doctors’ appointments. “Who needs anti-depressants?” she jokes but quickly takes a serious turn, “It brings a lot of joy in my life.”
“It’s a fine organization,” Mr. Ochs volunteers, “I can’t say enough about it.” Given enough time and his penchant for storytelling, though, he probably could.
John K. of Shaler contacted us about his interest in volunteering after he heard about the program on WORD-FM. On February 16, he attended a training session and learned about our immediate need for help with snow shoveling. Specifically, Violet, an 89-year-old woman living alone in the North Hills, needed someone to shovel her driveway and sidewalk so that her home nurse could reach her house. Eager to get involved, John immediately volunteered to help and went to her house the very next day. He got her all shoveled out so that her home nurse could resume the visits. John is still volunteering and making a big difference for seniors in his community.
Another Winter Story
An 87-year-old woman lives alone in Knoxville (PA) and has no local family. She called us because she was trapped in her house due to the heavy snowfall. Her front awning, laden with snow, was sagging over the front porch and blocking the door. She was running low on food and was concerned that Meals on Wheels would not be able to deliver to her. We didn't have a volunteer who could help right away, so we called the Mt. Oliver Fire Department and explained the woman's predicament. The firefighters were happy to help and sent four people to shovel her walk and take care of her awning. They also brought her dinner from their Lenten fish fry later that evening!