Categorized | Technology

‘Time to give back': Seniors volunteer to give other seniors care, companionship

CLOSE

The annual Free Flu Shot Day held at six Knox County high schools on Saturday, September 16 provided over 3,000 flu shots and raised over $13,000 for the Empty Stocking Fund.
Andrew Capps

Ella Neal’s Tuesday client never hears a word she speaks.

But Neal, 62, doesn’t have any trouble seeing what a difference her weekly visits make in 70-year-old Mary’s life.

Mary, who’s been deaf since a bout of rheumatic fever in her early teens, and who has struggled with dementia in later years, is one of three older seniors Neal serves through her position as a Senior Companion with the Community Action Committee’s Office on Aging.

Though Neal doesn’t know American Sign Language, she and Mary communicate by exchanging notes on a pad, and Mary also reads lips well, Neal said.

An Army and Navy veteran who retired after a career as a private-duty licensed practical nurse for the elderly, Neal signed up for the program last year because, she said, it was “time to give back.” In 2016-2017, 98 Senior Companions helped 315 seniors — those who are frail, homebound, disabled or isolated — with more than 71,400 hours of service.

Senior Companions receive a small stipend of $2.65 an hour for their work, plus mileage reimbursement, but not enough income to count against Social Security. Most, like Neal, do the work — usually light housekeeping, errands, transportation, meal preparation and reminders to take medication — for the sense of purpose it gives them, and the friendships that result.

Mary, for example, keeps her house “immaculate,” Neal said — so even though Mary insists Neal helps her with “lots of things,” it’s her company that holds the most value for Mary.

“I enjoy this, and I do see the benefits of this program, even just for companionship,” Neal said. “It’s a great need.”

Mary’s husband is in a nursing home, and her only son is unable to travel to help her, so Neal and other Senior Companions help keep track of how she’s doing — any changes in her mental state or health, such as whether she’s eating enough. Neal sometimes takes meals with Mary, to encourage her to eat more.

This year both women will receive holiday food through the Empty Stocking Fund program, which provides food and gifts to around 10,000 needy East Tennesseans during the winter holidays. Mary will have a prepared dinner delivered through Mobile Meals, while Neal will get a food basket. The groceries — enough for several small meals — are particularly helpful to seniors such as Neal’s other clients, one of whom is 99, because regular grocery store trips are difficult for them.

More: Key to life: Senior thrives on hard work, helping others

More: Empty Stocking Fund: Knox senior thankful for food — but it’s conversation that feeds his soul

More: Need help for the holidays? Empty Stocking Fund applications accepted

When Mary is able to get out, she enjoys visiting her husband and also visiting and “loving on” animals at the shelter. Her own dog, Lady, alerts her to the phone or someone at the door, she said — although “she didn’t tell me when I left the TV on,” she jokingly complained. Neal said Mary lately has expressed an interest in playing badminton in her yard.

“I’m going to get her a set,” she said.

For Neal, the reward is seeing Mary and her other clients able to remain in their own homes. CAC’s Office on Aging reported 94 percent of the seniors served in the program last year remained in their own homes, versus having to move to a nursing home or another facility.

“It gives them some sense of independence,” Neal said. “Of course, nobody lives forever. But the familiarity (of their own homes) helps keep them stable.”

How to help

Gifts are acknowledged in the News Sentinel. Names will be listed as appears on your check unless a special note of instruction is included in the same envelope.

Donate online: www.esfknox.org

Mail a check (payable to ESF): News Sentinel ESF, 2332 News Sentinel Drive, Knoxville, TN 37921

Facebook: www.facebook.com/esfknox/

Volunteer: To volunteer to help distribute toys and food baskets, register online at esfknox.org/volunteers.

Apply for help 

If you could use some help during the upcoming holidays, the News Sentinel is taking applications for the Empty Stocking Fund. 

The News Sentinel Charities Inc. is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization established in 1975 to manage and govern the Empty Stocking Fund and the Milk Fund. It continues a tradition that began in 1912: to provide food and toys to disadvantaged East Tennesseans during the holidays. Last year the fund provided food baskets and toys to about 3,800 East Tennessee families.

Applications will be taken 8:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Nov. 27-Dec. 1 at three locations: East Center, 4200 Asheville Highway (in Holston Shopping Center); South Center, 522 Old Maryville Pike (South Knoxville Recreation Center/Vestal Boys and Girls Club building); and West Center, 2247 Western Ave. (L.T. Ross Building).

Dec. 2 is the only Saturday that applications will be taken. Apply only at the L.T. Ross Building, 2247 Western Ave., between 8:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Households applying for an Empty Stocking Fund Basket need to bring proof of Social Security numbers for everyone in the home (no exceptions); proof of rent or mortgage payment; a recent utility bill; and proof of all household income, earned and unearned. Without these documents, applications will not be accepted.

For questions, leave a message at 865-524-2521, and someone will return your call. 

 

 

Article source: http://www.knoxnews.com/story/news/2017/11/26/give-back-senior-companion-cac-empty-stocking-fund-volunteer/845532001/

Comments are closed.

Call Now: 877-642-5321 ` ` . .