On a cold, snowy January afternoon I stopped by a nursing community to speak with their social worker about a possible Ombudsman volunteer who might be starting within the next week. Unfortunately, the social worker had forgotten about our appointment and would meet with me in 45 minutes. Instead of just sitting and waiting I decided to walk around the community and see a few residents who might be in need a kind voice.
I walked up to the third floor of the building where I stopped by a room with an elderly lady in it looking out at the Mississippi river with tears in her eyes. The room was barren except for a bed, nightstand, and a dresser. There were no pictures, flowers, or anything else that might make this room a little more cheerful. I knocked and introduced myself as a staff member from VOYCE and asked her a few questions so that we could establish some rapport. At first she was hesitant to talk but as our conversation went on she became more open and talkative and said her name was Carol. Turns out, Carol was crying because she missed her independent apartment. She had no clothes, extra shoes, or a winter coat. She stated that she had gotten sick and was admitted to the hospital and then discharged to the nursing home. After talking some more, I found out Carol is 85 years old. She has no children, brothers, sisters, or anyone she could call family. She had been independent all of her life and was now stuck in this lonely nursing home with no one to care for her. I asked her if she wanted to return home and she said yes but didn’t think she could because she can no longer walk and has to use a wheelchair. I told her I would go down and speak to the staff about helping her. The staff said they knew about the apartment but were not sure about her going back there because there was no one to help her.
I went back to speak to Carol and found out the name of the apartment complex and said I would call the landlord for her as well as track down any of her neighbors who might help bring over some of her clothes and pictures. I then helped her call the bank to make sure her social security check was still coming to her and verified that she could still afford the apartment if she finished her physical therapy and was okay to go home. I also informed her that I would have the staff get her to the beauty shop and let her borrow a winter coat and shoes. I told her that the staff was going to bring some pictures and flowers to brighten up the room as she was sad at being alone and could become socially isolated.
Carol was very happy with this news and we went on talking for another 45 minutes. Eventually the social worker came up to the room and I informed her of what was going on and she vowed to help Carol as much as she could. Carol might not be able to return to her old apartment but I promised her that I would follow up once a month just to make sure she was doing okay and possibly get her set up with programs like money follows the person, meals on wheels, and any other programs that would be available to her. Both the social worker and Carol were very appreciative of my help but I was appreciative too as I had an opportunity to fulfill our mission here at VOYCE.
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680 Craig Road, Suite 245