Check On Your Neighbors; They May Not Be Okay
Writer Sheila Grant encourages readers to check on their neighbors, and to learn what resources might be available to help.
ST ALBANS – When Agnes Totherow, 82, contacted The Eastern Gazette on April 9, she was frightened, in pain and frustrated! Agnes, who lives alone, has needed a hip replacement for months. She’s been in too much pain to leave the house over the winter, to sleep well, or even to stand with her walker long enough to cook for herself. And because of the COVID-19 risks, her surgery, scheduled for March, was postponed to April. Now that’s been postponed, too.
“Dear God, I hurt,” Agnes said. “I walk from my chair to the kitchen and I’m in such agony!”
Compounding her worries is that she tried to get Meals on Wheels – and landed on a waiting list. Her daughter, who lives nearby, picks up her groceries, as well as doing her own errands and those of another elderly family member. Neither woman has a lot of gas money, according to Agnes, plus she hates to see her daughter out there risking infection.
“I’m worried for my young’un,” said Agnes. “She can’t stay long. She’s in and out, afraid of infecting me or anybody else.”
Agnes spends a lot of time “yelling at the TV,” she said. “I have to just sit here and suffer, but that’s not my problem. My problem is, I see these people out running around. Do they not understand they need to stay in? Is there something somebody can do to make these people stay in, for the people like me that need medical help and can’t get it [until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted]? Please make these people understand!”
So to be clear, throughout Maine and our nation, there are people going without surgeries and preventative care they need until we have successfully flattened the curve enough for medical practices to return to normal. And there are elderly people with limited resources stuck in their homes, worried for their families and having a hard time paying for the food and medications they need, or the gas to fetch them. Some of those people aren’t physically up to cooking meals. And many of those people are experiencing loneliness and anxiety.
Staying safe at home and practicing the recommended hygiene when we must go out is vital. The longer it takes to flatten the curve, the longer it will be before we can get back to whatever our new normal is – and folks like Agnes can get what is certainly essential healthcare to them.
In the meantime, check on your neighbors, and learn what resources might be available to help meet any needs. A call to the St. Albans Town Office proved helpful.
Town Clerk Charlin Williams knows Agnes, and said she is “a sweet lady.” Williams planned to contact Meals on Wheels to see what might be done to move Agnes up the waiting list, and to invite a friend from church to take turns dropping meals at Agnes’s door now and then.
A call to the local town office is a good place to start when searching for resources, Williams said. Many communities have service clubs or volunteer groups trying to help out at this time.
In St. Albans, Hartland, Palmyra and Ripley, for example, the Hartland-St. Albans Lions Club agreed at their last meeting, nearly two months ago, to transport food to the homes of individuals or families who are self-quarantined due to a positive COVID-19 diagnosis in the household.
“We are not offering to [pay for] the food for people, but to help them by bringing it to the door and leaving it there,” explained Robert Davids, president of the local Lions Club. The club will grocery shop, and also pick up boxes from food cupboards for delivery.
Agnes didn’t fit the criteria, but that didn’t stop Davids from giving her a call, and then delivering groceries paid for out of his own pocket, when Williams told him about her plight.
“I don’t really know why but we haven’t gotten any calls, until I got the call from the town office yesterday about this lady in St. Albans,” Davids said. “I haven’t met her face to face. I called her and found out what sorts of things would help get her though the weekend, then went to Moosehead Market for microwave meals, milk, peanut butter and other items she suggested might be helpful. She asked me to leave them on a chair at the top of the ramp, because she can’t bend down enough to pick them up. This is not what the Lions were planning on doing, but I had the chance to help her out myself, so I bought the food and took it to her.”
And in a more roundabout search for resources, The Eastern Gazette reached out to a volunteer group in the Dover-Foxcroft area involving a partnership between The Commons at Central Hall, Helping Hands with Heart, and United Way. Dr. Lesley Fernow, who is heading up efforts to organize grocery/prescription deliveries in that area, called Agnes herself, and also planned to connect Agnes with a United Way volunteer in Palmyra who had offered to call shut-ins during this time of isolation.
“I was so down that day, it was terrible,” Agnes said during a follow-up call on April 13. Having lost power for three days, Agnes risked going to stay with her daughter until the lights were back on. “And I got some sleep last night,” she said, sounding more chipper.“I also got to thinking, there are other souls out there in worse shape than I am that need help,” she said. “I’m just praying for them and asking God to hurry up and get this mess over with!”