My heart broke a little bit earlier this week

At the same time I was heartened, knowing we play a critical role in connecting our clients with needed care.

A volunteer called saying one of their people was extremely short of breath and was having difficulty speaking. Their “person” is a young 95 year old, legally blind, lives alone, doctors infrequently and has no family. Along with a formal Power of Attorney for finances, we are their only connection to the “outside world”. Six days a week we bring not just a meal, but also a conversation with a smile in our voices to this individual.

I called the client to check in and see how they were doing; not so good. They could barely talk – needing to take a breath after every 1-3 words. They were confused – when they’re usually very alert.

Initially, they were not interested in having us call 911. I asked them if they wanted us to call their doctor (they have difficulty seeing the buttons to dial out). They said they didn’t really have one. I asked where they usually went for medical care, and if I could call there. They replied “they wouldn’t know me.”

Their breathing remained shallow and labored. I could hear the anxiety in their voice and change in timbre. I could see their confusion in making a relatively simple decision – part of their mind knowing they should get help, but also uncertain if they “really” needed medical care.

I gently asked what they wanted to do to get help with their breathing. They replied “Well, I guess I should go see a doctor.” I quietly told them I was concerned about their difficulty breathing and that I thought it would be a good idea for the EMTs to come and help them get medical attention. They agreed.

I ended the conversation saying I was going to call 911 and would then call them back. With a sigh and crackle in their voice, they said “Oh, I’ve been such a fool…”

“More than a meal” could almost be our tagline.

  • Our volunteers let us know when things aren’t “normal” with their people and we follow-up with those concerns.
  • Small, handmade cards, placemats and other crafts from area school-aged children bring a bit of joy to someone who might be feeling a bit “blue”.
  • Volunteers encounter situations where their quick response ends up saving lives.
  • A birthday card and individual piece of cake (or sugar free candy) is sometimes the only recognition a client receives – not because of cultural or religious preferences, but because they have no one left.
  • It’s a brief visit, but we break down the walls of social isolation.

As I finish writing this, I’m saddened as I imagine what it must be like to grow old and to have out-lived family and friends; to be visually impaired to where I can’t even see the buttons on the phone; and to become so confused, when I’m normally very alert, I can’t make decisions for myself. But there is a silver lining: I know that because of Meals on Wheels, because of the care and concern our volunteers have for “their people”, this person received medical attention they might not otherwise have received. Medical attention that sometimes saves a life.

by Beth Adams
Director, Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels

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See you at the 2014 Senior Living Week Expo!

We are very excited for the 2014 Senior Living Week Expo on Friday, May 2nd at the Ann Arbor Marriott Ypsilanti at Eagle Crest (1275 S. Huron, Ypsilanti) and we hope you are too! Don’t forget to stop by our table and say hello – we’d love to meet you and tell you all about Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels!

Below is a flyer of the workshops that will take place at the Expo, as well as a workshop registration form. If you have any questions about the Expo workshops or any of the workshops that will take place during Senior Living Week (May 2 – 10), please don’t hesitate to contact De Bora McIntosh at the Housing Bureau for Seniors at (734) 998-9338.

Expo Schedule

Workshop Registration_Page_2 Workshop Registration_Page_1

MOW for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Imagine trying to cross the street without being able to see the crosswalk signal. Or carrying bags of groceries for long distances while also holding on to a walking stick or a seeing eye dog. Or grabbing a knife without seeing which end is the handle or the blade. These are the challenges that make it difficult for the blind or visually impaired to prepare their own meals.

With our older population rapidly increasing, so is the population of people with limited or no sight. Over half of the world’s blindness is due to age-related cataracts. Other causes include age-related macular degeneration and diabetes, afflictions common in older adults. Over 80% of the world’s blind population is over 50 years old. For our clients, low vision is related to, or in addition to, other conditions that make it difficult for them to leave the home.

On October 11th, World Sight Day will be observed around the world to raise awareness about visual impairment and efforts to prevent avoidable blindness. However, for the MOW population, treatments or cures for their vision problems are either unavailable or unaffordable, and the meals we deliver allow them to eat a hot, nutritious meal that they might not otherwise be able to prepare.

“Due to my eyes and hearing…I am very grateful for your help. Thank you.”
-Meals On Wheels Participant

The service Ann Arbor Meals on Wheels provides meets the needs of hundreds of people with a variety of limitations. Many are older adults with age related conditions, while others may have disabilities that are unrelated to their age. Some may be temporarily homebound for a minimum of three weeks. Others may need meals delivered indefinitely.

If you or someone you know in Ann Arbor has difficulty obtaining meals on a daily basis, MOW may be able to help. Visit our website for eligibility requirements. Eligible clients are served regardless of age or financial status. Each delivery includes a hot meal and a cold meal, both include a beverage.

To apply for Ann Arbor Meals On Wheels, call (734) 998-6686 or email aamealsonwheels@umich.edu for more information.