SHARE THE CARE HELPING NAPA’S OLDER ADULTS THROUGH TOUGH TIMES
Life has thrown quite a few curves toward Napa resident, Kathryn Lunt, 68, in the past five years. First her husband died, then her mother passed ten days later. She collected their belongings in her apartment, and was soon diagnosed with her own cancer, before undergoing chemotherapy treatments for two years. Once her own chemotherapy ended, doctors told Lunt her that pain in her shoulder was caused by her bone dissolving, due to osteoporosis.
Medical problems aside, Lunt also had new neighbors move in downstairs. She was already having difficulty walking the 17 steps to her upstairs apartment, and rent increases were straining her budget. Then, overhearing what Lunt believed to be threats from her neighbors, she decided that it was time to move.
Finding herself a single, low income, older woman with medical issues, made moving a daunting task. Not only is finding another place to live difficult, but the actual sorting, cleaning, packing and move itself can be overwhelming. According to Lunt, “Without the help from Share the Care, I would have had to junk everything.”
Once a new apartment was found, Lunt called Share the Care for help. Share the Care volunteer, Liz Kirkaldie, visited several times, bringing boxes and helping pack and organize. Kirkaldie also drove Lunt to apply for Season of Sharing funds to pay for the apartment deposit. Another volunteer, Lisa Ragone, solicited donated moving assistance from Holmes Moving and Storage, and on the day of the move, six men and a truck showed up to get everything moved across town. Ragone also stayed to help unpack and organize for the remainder of the day.
Both Kirkaldie and Ragone have donated hundreds of hours over the past three years in helping aged Napa residents get back on their feet after illness or crisis. Mostly, their work has included friendly visits, finding resources, driving to medical appointments, paperwork completion assistance and just being there for emotional support.
Ragone, a retired police officer, joined Share the Care because, “I was retired, sitting home and doing nothing and I wanted to continue to give back to the community… because that’s what law enforcement does. I tried other nonprofits, but it didn’t mesh. Share the Care is like nothing else I’ve ever seen.”
The newly-formed local nonprofit has volunteers working one-on-one with people that need assistance through time. Share the Care serves people in Napa County in ways that other agencies and services do not, according to Yvonne Baginski, Director, “We fill in the gaps. Actually, we often work with other social service providers but we can do the stuff that they can’t… and we’re often available in the evening and on weekends for assistance.”
One example where Share the Care fills a gap is helping people pay for dental care or dentures. More than 27 people have received direct funds to pay for things like root canals, partials and dental consults. Share the Care has raised money for dental care through grants, garage sales and private donations.
“Older people with little money let their teeth go,” said Baginski, “Someone might qualify for Denti-Cal but Denti-Cal will not pay for surgeries, or root canals on back teeth. There are restrictions and again, a gap, in what is paid for, and what is actually needed.”
After she moved to her new apartment, Lunt was told by her doctor that she needed a considerable amount of dental work. Her osteoporosis treatment meant an injection that would translate to having no surgery for the next five years. Before they could treat… she would have to pay nearly $6,000 for dental care.
“I was really broke, and I hadn’t had dental care since 2000,” said Lunt. “I didn’t think I had such problems, but the chemotherapy took out my caps and my roots were growing out. Only two dentists in Napa took my dental insurance, and one of them was arrested for getting in a fight in the office.” Then she discovered that her insurance didn’t pay for most of the treatment she needed.
Once again, Lunt turned to Share the Care for help. While not able to pay for the entire bill, funds were contributed to begin the much needed work.
Even though Lunt has been hospitalized for pneumonia since she moved, she is now much happier and believes that she will continue to improve. Tomatoes and peppers are growing in her new yard, and she shows off her new hummingbird feeder.
Lunt lives on a very tight budget of less than $1,200 month. She relies on the Brown Bag Program for her groceries, Care Network for care management support, and receives Section 8 rental subsidy. She is saving a few dollars every month to pay for the remainder of her dental work, and perhaps buy a car.
Life is beginning to look better!
“It’s wonderful being a recipient of all this help. I was really afraid of what was going to happen. I am a real worry wart,” admitted Lunt.
Share the Care has provided direct assistance to over 800 people throughout Napa County, in the past three years. These people are mostly individuals who need someone in their lives keeping an eye on circumstances, according to Baginski.
“As people age, they often lose friends or family lives far away. There is no one around anymore to help, visit or even care. We are seeing all kinds of studies that loneliness takes a tremendous toll on health, and as a community we have a responsibility to care for one another,” Baginski added.
Volunteer Kirkaldie still works full-time but was drawn to Share the Care in memory of her own mother who lived alone and was isolated most of the day, “I used to pick her up every day and bring her home to have dinner with me, but she was alone most of the time,” said Kirkaldie.
Lunt also hopes to give back in helping others once she gets back on her feet. Right now, she makes daily phone calls to a 103-year-old woman in Napa. She agrees that loneliness is a problem for the elderly.
Share the Care is looking for more volunteers, and continued assistance with various projects in helping older adults in Napa County. Their Cirque de Napa Fundraiser, October 14 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at Chardonnay Hall at the Napa Valley Expo will feature 52 booths, a wild cat show, aerialists, a bubble show, musicians, clowns and much more. Tickets are just $3 for seniors, and $5 for everyone else. Call (707) 492-3198 for reservations, tickets will also be available at the door.