Boomer Unchained: Don't Worry, Help is Available
In recent months, I have been inspired by how people support one another in Delaware, and especially in Sussex County.
I am not referring to what people do in crises caused by hurricanes, fires, floods, and other extreme emergencies, but the outreach to those experiencing the inevitable conditions of aging – chronic illnesses, incapacitation, isolation, and death of a spouse, a companion, child, or other loved one.
Here in Delaware’s coastal communities, where the retirement population is exploding in growth, the need for all kinds of support has grown exponentially. While the availability of modern medical treatments is obviously critically important, just as important is ongoing caregiving, camaraderie and emotional support, respite for people who live with the chronically ill, transportation services, help with errands, food shopping and meal preparation, the completion of odd jobs around the house and affordable support.
Since the beginning of 2019, I have attended two funerals, and also have had two other acquaintances die. I have had one friend suffer a heart attack, two friends go on kidney dialysis, one friend get a cancer diagnosis, and another finish a treatment regimen with much hope it will be the last. I have several friends whose spouses continue to live with chronic and worsening illnesses. I have been among those who have prepared hot meals for the families, who have run errands, who have attended support groups, and who have accompanied people to doctor visits and medical treatments. Others do a lot more than I.
These last few months have made me contemplate: 1) I am thankful for every day I am healthy and my family is healthy, for every day the sun comes up and the birds sing outside my window; 2) What can I continue to do to help others?
I stopped by the offices of Greater Lewes Community Village on Kings Highway to get information to share and to see if I could become a volunteer. I was lucky to catch Jackie Sullivan in her office so I could talk to her.
The Greater Lewes Community Village
The Greater Lewes Community Village is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that helps adults live independently in their homes as long as possible (A situation now coined “Aging in Place”). The Village offers as many services you can think of that are not medical. For an annual membership of $500, Village volunteers provide services for up to 25 hours a month. The organization also collaborates with home health, Hospice, and other organizations providing services to that member. The Village gives members referrals to approved venders and offers educational programs and social activities. Its membership is open to residents in the Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, and Milton zip codes.
“It’s a good thing to get to know us before you need us,” says Jackie.
I told her I was there to learn ways I could help others, but that I didn’t need the organization’s help. After all, I’d lived locally for 17 years and so have a lot of friends.
“How often can you call them,” she asked me. “You don’t want to wear out a friendship.”
That got me thinking. I couldn’t keep calling the same few people to take me to a doctor appointment several times a week. Or shop for me on a regular basis, or cook me dinner. She was right. We have to have a network. For example, I have a close friend whose husband has Parkinson’s and I realized she has a complex support network that includes a weekly caregiver group, a Rise gym membership with its specially designed program for its large group of participants, and the American Parkinson’s Disease Association with all kinds of contacts, plus family members, and friends, so she doesn’t depend on one or two close friends or neighbors.
Jackie says both newcomers and locals are using the services Village offers. While it is understandable that a newcomer who suddenly loses a spouse does not have a reliable support network in place, neither does a local necessarily have one either. As an example, Jackie says they have one client whose adult child works full time, so Village volunteers help when the child is unavailable.
Doing a bit of research on the internet, I found information to think about regarding when we should reach out to someone. Signals to look out for include:
- When we know someone is alone and doesn’t seem be able to make meals for themselves regularly, keep up with bills, or stay interested in activities the person used to like to do.
- When we know someone has recently lost a loved one.
- When a friend or neighbor has recently returned from a hospital stay.
- When we sense a friend or neighbor just needs some extra support.
For more information on how to volunteer for Village, or to become a member: visit the website https://glcv.clubexpress.com/content.aspx?page_id=0&club_id=492141, or telephone: (302) 703-7568.
State programs, agencies and more helpful information
The Village by far is not the only place to get information on where to get support, or where to find ways to volunteer. We are extremely lucky with Delaware being such a small state. The Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities is a wealth of information. This organization covers the entire state of Delaware. To contact this state division, telephone 1-800-233-9074, email [email protected], or visit the website: https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/DSAAPD/
A government website gives more information on local programs.
I found several helpful articles on the National Institutes of Health website regarding aging in place and how to make a home safer.
Aging in place article on NIH site:
Tips on making a home safe and accessible:
The wonderful thing about living in “lower slower Delaware,” is that we are not alone. Jackie reminds us all that we should not be afraid to ask for help.