On Monday, June 15, Catholic Charities invites the community to join the worldwide campaign to wear purple in recognition of World Elder Abuse Awareness Day.
An estimated five million, or one in 10, seniors nationally are victims of elder abuse, neglect or financial exploitation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living. [singlepic id=878 w=300 h=225 float=right]
The International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse and the World Health Organization of the United Nations launched the first World Elder Abuse Awareness Day (WEAAD) on June 15, 2006, as a way to unite communities around the world in raising awareness about elder abuse.
In an effort to prevent elder abuse in northwest Ohio, Catholic Charities offers Payee and Guardianship Services to adults age 55 and older in Huron, Erie, Richland and Ottawa Counties. These programs help protect seniors from abuse and financial exploitation through managing bill payments and offering legal guardianship. Seniors and their families are able to have peace of mind knowing their loved ones and their finances are protected.
“Catholic Charities has helped me pay my bills, get my glasses and set up doctor’s appointments,” said Joyce, who was once a victim of an international money scam that financial exploited her for years. Her family contacted Catholic Charities after learning about the scam. Joyce says she enjoys her new life and now lives debt and worry-free.
“If I have a problem, I call Carol Wheeler (Catholic Charities’ Adult Advocacy Program Coordinator). She’s always ready to help,” Joyce said.
To help raise awareness about people like Joyce in our community and throughout the world, we ask for you to join us by wearing purple to show your support for helping our seniors retain their dignity and independence.
“We encourage the community to help support out elderly and protect them from abuse. It’s a much needed effort due to their vulnerability,” said Carol Wheeler.
To learn more about World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, please click here.
To read more about Joyce’s story, please click here.
A group of 30 young men in Norwalk decided to make the Easter season special for 30 seniors served by Catholic Charities.
The Norwalk Squires of Circle 4552, a group of young men ages 13 to 17 associated with the Knights of Columbus, delivered small gifts and Easter cards to senior citizens in the Catholic Charities Guardianship program.
The Squires called it Project Resurrection, an idea presented by the circle’s Chief Squire, Matthew Schild.[singlepic id=884 w=320 h=240 float=right]
“Since we participated in Project Bethlehem during Christmas time, Matt thought we should do something similar during Easter,” said Paul Depinet, the Squires’ counselor.
Catholic Charities staff members, Allison McDonald, Marjorie Cassidy and Carol Wheeler, compiled a list of 30 guardianship clients who resided in eight different nursing home facilities in Clyde, Bellevue, Milan, Norwalk and Sandusky for the Squires to visit and deliver gifts.
Catholic Charities provides legal guardianship services for adults age 55 and older who suffer from dementia or other illnesses that limit their decision making capacity. Seniors in the program have no appropriate family to make decisions for their medical care and estate.
“It was lovely to witness young men take time to extend compassion to an elderly individual,” said Carol Wheeler, Program Coordinator for Catholic Charities’ Adult Advocacy Services.
The young men who participated in Project Resurrection said the program had a positive impact on their lives. Many of them expressed how they would like to do Project Resurrection again and how nice it was to visit the elderly.
“I remember visiting several people who were very thankful for visiting them and bringing them something,” said Squire Matt in his refection about the visits. “We also saw and visited other people there, and they were grateful. Many of these people do not get visits very often or not at all. We should not only visit them for the Easter season, but we should try to have it [Project Resurrection] year round.”
Squire Sam said his favorite part about Project Resurrection was “brightening the seniors citizens’ day and seeing their reaction to our presence.”
Sam goes on to say, “It was a great experience because I believe it had a positive impact on my life.”
“The seniors were delighted to have young people visit and engage in conversation with them. It meant the world to our clients who live in nursing homes with little visitation from family or friends,” Carol said.
Learn more about our Guardianship Program and how to become a volunteer.
When Terry met Billy for the first time, it seemed as if they had known each other for years.
“What connected me with Billy was that he was very easy to talk with,” explains Terry. “We have a lot of the same interests, and we were on the same page.”
“We like the same sports teams,” says Billy as he goes on to talk about his love for the Ohio State Buckeyes and Cleveland Indians.
Terry is Billy’s volunteer guardian through the Catholic Charities Adult Advocacy Program. The program assigns volunteers to serve as legal guardians for adults who are unable to take care of themselves.
“I was approached by an employee at Catholic Charities about the need for more male guardians in the program,” Terry says. “After I took some time to think about it, I thought it would be an interesting program to take part in.”
Terry has been Billy’s guardian for over 10 years, and the two have grown exceptionally close. Billy, who has polio and uses a wheelchair, enjoys the time that he and Terry spend together.
“He’s more like a brother than a guardian to me,” Billy says. “When my brother died, he was there for me. He saw me through things.”
Enduring Tough Times
Billy and Terry’s relationship proved strong when Billy was hospitalized several times over the years. One hospital visit led to Billy having major surgery. Terry made sure he was there to comfort his friend throughout the process.
“Terry was with me through that. He’s been there when I’ve needed him,” Billy explains.
“I went up to visit him and to be with him,” Terry says. “That really brightened his day and it was a big highlight for me. It made me feel better that day.”
Now that Billy is back in better health, Terry continues to support his engagement in daily activities.
“He loves going to work,” Terry says. “He can’t miss a day of work.”
“I like doing different jobs and getting paid every two weeks!” Billy laughs. “You like that money, don’t you?” Terry says smiling. “Yeah!” Billy replies, chuckling.
Billy entered into the Special Olympics this past spring. “I placed second in two events and third in my last event,” Billy says.
Learning New Lessons
Since entering the program, Terry views his relationship with Billy as a learning experience. “My faith has grown a lot while being his guardian,” he says.
“The main thing he has really taught me is how to understand and respect people who are in his physical situation. I respect Billy very much and I applaud him.”
For Billy, the emotional comfort he gets from Terry is irreplaceable. “It’s just being there when you’re down or when you have a bad day.”
Interested in becoming a volunteer guardian? For Erie, Huron and Ottawa Counties, contact Carol Wheeler at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-668-3073, ext. 102. For Richland County, contact Rebecca Owens at email@example.com or 419-524-0733, ext. 225. Click here to learn more about our guardianship services.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:8-9
Imagine being vulnerable from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease or mental illness. You have no one looking out for you. No family. No emergency contact. No one is protecting you or your interests. You’re at risk for abuse, exploitation, wandering off, hunger, illness, injury, poor hygiene, dreadful living conditions, loneliness and other bleak scenarios. It’s pretty scary.
[singlepic id=64 w=320 h=240 float=right]Thankfully, people like Barb Strohm make it their business to look out for people who face challenges beyond their mental capacity. She’s a Volunteer Guardian for Nancy, who’s 75 years old, living in a nursing home with mental illness and confined to a wheelchair. With no family to care for Nancy, Barb volunteered to become her legal guardian through Catholic Charities’ Advocacy Services. Barb essentially serves the interests of Nancy just as a caring family member would.
Barb accompanies Nancy to doctor’s appointments, visits her, takes her on outings and hosts tea parties at the nursing home. And moved by the love of Christ, she holds Nancy dear in her heart. “No matter where we are in our walk in life, we need that contact,” says Barb. “I look around and I see what people are doing and I hope someone will push my wheelchair outside someday.”
Barb adds: “Nancy helps me figure out what’s important in my life and relationships. I feel grateful that I have this time in my life to do this. I don’t really have anything to grumble about.” She tells a story about taking Nancy to Battery Park in Sandusky. “I can’t get Nancy out of my car without help. So we parked the car facing the water. I knew she liked fish. We shared a pound of perch and French fries in the car,” she laughs. “And we just drove around downtown Sandusky looking at the flowers. She said she got to see things she hasn’t seen, and that about made me cry.”
“Most of her day is spent sitting in a wheelchair waiting for food or bingo. When you walk into a facility, all you have to do is walk in and they light up,” Barb says of Nancy and the other residents she’s met in the two years she’s been Nancy’s advocate. “The staff told me since I’ve been her guardian they’ve seen a real difference in her.”
Adult advocates like Barb truly do make a difference in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ. “I would encourage someone to be a friend. It’s given me a lot of joy; I look forward to seeing Nancy,” Barb says. “There are a lot of people who don’t have people to love or care about them. It’s my privilege.”
Take heart in knowing you – our donors – helped create this true story of hope and fulfillment of God’s promise to care for His children. Imagine that.