Susan is an 84-year-old who loves to garden and play cards. However, these activities became a significant struggle as her eyesight slowly diminished due to macular degeneration. Susan wanted to continue living on her own, despite her failing eyesight, and so she contacted Catholic Social Services to request help. CSS began to assist Susan routinely by reviewing her mail, writing out checks, and making sure she maintained her Medicare benefits. As cooking and cleaning became more challenging, CSS linked Susan to Meals-on-Wheels and homemaker services.
Today, Susan’s CSS social worker helps her to keep track of scheduled medical appointments, helps arrange transportation, and accompanies her to medical appointments. A nurse comes to the home weekly to set up Susan’s medications to ensure that they are being taken correctly. Susan was also able to sign up for Mainstream transportation services, which she uses to attend the local senior center once a week where she plays Euchre. As Susan continues to face the challenges of aging, she knows that she can count on CSS to help her obtain the resources needed to stay safe and independent in her home for as long as possible.
Rick has been driving for Catholic Social Services’ Transportation Program for over 11 years. He helps many clients get to their non-emergency medical appointments, and according to Rick, his client, Gerry, is one of the biggest Ohio State fans. “My husband was an alumnus,” Gerry says. “We had season tickets to the football games, and now my son is an usher at the stadium.” Gerry and her family have even been to the Rose bowl three times!
Rick also tells us that Gerry is a client who likes to be independent and do things herself. In fact, Gerry still drives herself places, though she finds it too difficult to get to and from her dialysis appointments. So instead, she uses Catholic Social Services. Rick arrives at her door promptly at 6:20 am. “Rick is always on time. If he says he will be here at 6:20 am, you better be ready at 6:20 am,” Gerry laughs.
Gerry has two children and two grandchildren, and both of her children live in the Newark/Heath area and frequently check in on their mother. Using the Transportation Program, “gives my daughter peace of mind,” Gerry says. “She doesn’t want me driving in [winter] weather.” Gerry uses a walker, and snow and ice make it difficult for her to get around, especially early in the mornings, when the snow trucks haven’t plowed or salted.
Gerry has used two other transportation programs in the past, but she switched to Catholic Social Services because her dialysis appointments were changed to the mornings. “The other services don’t open until 8 am,” she says. This would leave Gerry, who needs to be picked up just after 6 am, without a way to get to her dialysis appointments. With CSS, drivers hit the road at 6 am and are available until 6 pm, Monday through Friday.
Gerry has had a great experience with CSS, and when asked if she would recommend the Transportation Program to others she says, “yes,” without any hesitation. “They are always on time, and you’re never forgotten. All the drivers are very friendly.”
As Betty grew older, she developed serious health issues and decided to move in with her oldest son. Though she thought the move would solve many of her problems, she was soon informed that her son had cancer. He was in his 30’s at the time of the diagnosis.
After his death, Betty was left alone to pay all of the bills with only her small income. Betty
was naturally inclined to kindness and generosity, and she never turned down a friend or
family member in need, despite the fact that she was struggling financially herself. Betty’s Christian faith was strong, and she did not believe in lying. So when a family member asked if she could take out an advance, she said she could, even though she knew it would push her into debt. Soon, Betty was taking out advances just to pay her bills, and the interest payments were adding up. She didn’t know how to break the cycle.
Luckily, Betty’s nurse referred her to Catholic Social Services. We were able to secure a gift of kindness for her from the Columbus Foundation, and she was able to pay all of her bills for one month and stop the advances. She then changed her account to a
Direct Express program so that she would be unable to withdraw more money than was in her account. Through the Money
Management program, Betty was able to develop a budget, and within four months, Betty was once again financially independent.
Being a Payee client was not always easy for Rose. “At first, I didn’t understand how the program worked. I was angry that someone else had control of my money because I didn’t feel like I was independent.” Rose’s feelings are normal for a lot of Payee clients. The Payee Program provides individualized financial management to those who are unable to manage their own financial affairs. Individuals in the program are often required to participate, and the change can be hard.
But luckily, things got better for Rose. “I realized that I could trust Catholic Social Services to help me, and I could still make my own choices.” For Rose, working with her Payee Specialist, Julie, has been one of the best parts of the program. “Julie has been there to make sure my rent and bills are paid on time and that I make better choices with my money. She makes sure I think about saving up for things that I might need in the future for myself and my kids. Without the payee program, I wouldn’t have any of the things I have now.”
Rose has noticed a drastic difference in her life, now that she has Catholic Social Services (CSS) as an advocate and support. “For the first time in over four years, I am able to have my children come stay with me on weekends, which is a huge deal for me. Life is still difficult for me sometimes, but compared to [before], it’s amazing.”
Now, Rose is able to enjoy the simple things, such as owning her own washer and dryer, watching her favorite TV shows – Law & Order and The Golden Girls – and she recently bought a rat-terrier/Chihuahua mix from the animal shelter, named Scout.
This year, something even more special is on the horizon. Every parent dreams of being able to give their children a joyful memory of Christmas, and for the first time in years, Rose will be able to provide that for her family. “I would recommend CSS to others because it has taken a lot of stress off me. I don’t have to worry about if I’m going to have enough to cover my rent and bills. They really do care about people, and they want to help.” For the first time in years, Rose has hope again.
Loretta decided to volunteer for the Senior Companion program because she thought she could be the most help to people her own age. “Sometimes people are so busy that many seniors don’t get one-on-one contact,” Loretta said. “They’re isolated. You may be around people, but you’re not involved with them.” Friendships are very important to seniors, and visits from companions brighten their days. “I try to be an upbeat person – I’ll bring music and things like that,” Loretta said.
Volunteering has helped Loretta as much as it has helped those she visits. It has made her more compassionate and understanding, and it has turned her into an advocate for causes that affect seniors in the community. “There are different senior events I help out with, and I feel like I’m a part of the community,” Loretta said. “It helps my confidence because I feel like I’m making a difference. You can meet new people and learn new skills, and it makes you feel like you’re a part of something. When you’re working with other people sometimes challenges are welcome because you feel like you’re growing. It’s fun! Volunteering helps people be healthier – both emotionally and physically. We move more and we’re interacting with others. It gives people purpose. I’m not just sitting at home and wasting away on the front porch. I sometimes hear people complain that they have nothing to do, but there’s a lot to do – people just don’t seek it out.”
And there are even more benefits to volunteering for seniors in the Senior Companion Program. Companions are paid an hourly stipend for their volunteer work. Additionally, they attend monthly in-service meetings, where they learn about health and safety issues affecting seniors in the community. “I’ve learned to be more aware of health – they talk about that in our in-services,” Loretta said. “We aren’t just helping others; we need to take care of ourselves. There’s a lot of things that come up in [Senior Companion in-service meetings] that we don’t know are out there, and we can help spread the knowledge to others. It’s important that people are aware of what’s in the community that can help them.”
When asked if she would recommend CSS to others, Loretta didn’t hesitate. “All the communications I’ve had with CSS staff have been positive,” she said. “I had to give Mia a hug because she hit it on the nail [with matching me]. There’s just a positive, friendly atmosphere, and that positive environment is important!”
“I like helping people,” Scottie says. It’s why he chose to build a career in telecommunications after graduating from George Mason University. But although he liked his job and his life in Washington D.C., when his mother died, he started thinking about moving closer to his remaining family. “I’m impulsive,” he says. And so, in his late-forties and with an established career, Scottie took a leap of faith and moved to Columbus, Ohio.
But not long after his move, Scottie was bitten on the ear by a brown recluse spider. His ear swelled to nearly the size of his hand. Doctors gave him antibiotics, drained his ear, and bandaged his head to maintain the shape of the cartilage, but that was only the beginning. Soon Scottie developed flu-like symptoms. When his cousin came to visit one day, Scottie was delirious and his eyes were dilated. His cousin took him to the hospital, where they discovered that Scottie had developed Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, which had been caused by the bacteria build-up and spider bite. His temperature spiked due to fluid on the brain, and Scottie’s family wasn’t sure he would survive.
But Scottie pulled through, against all odds. The Encephalitis affected his motor skills, and he was unable to walk for two months. Once he started to grow stronger, he was moved into a nursing home for seven months. The nursing home “felt like a prison,” and Scottie was desperately unhappy. It was at one of his lowest points that Linda Sommer found him.
Linda, a Transition Coordinator for the HOME Choice program at Catholic Social Services, had been referred to Scottie by another resident of the nursing home. “It was like God was watching out for me,” Scottie says. “I cannot begin to tell you what a Godsend that woman was. She has really been a friend to me.”
When it came time for Scottie to leave the nursing home, Linda was instrumental in helping him get his life back. She even did a thorough home inspection for Scottie’s prospective apartment. “She covered all of her bases. She made sure it was safe. She came and sat with the property manager for two hours – she wanted to know about the crime in the area and everything,” Scottie says.
Now that he has his own apartment, Scottie is carefully adjusting to normal life. “Slowly but surely, I’m building me back,” he says. “Linda has been a rock for me. She still keeps in touch and tells me to call her anytime. That’s what makes HOME Choice an integral part of my transition.”