YPSILANTI, MI — Alma “Dee” Washington, a recording artist, previous health care industry worker, community organizer and card-player, never saw herself needing an organization like Care on Wheels, but after caring for her husband as an 80-year-old, she now relies on the group to care for her.
“Even at 80, I was able to lift him, put him in the wheelchair, drive and go,” said Washington, who’s now 92. “I look at these things now because I never thought I would be in the position I am now.”
Washington now relies on both Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels and Care on Wheels to help her daily. Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels, Seniors helping Senior’s MI and Washtenaw County United Way partner in Care on Wheels, a caregiver service for seniors with the caretakers being seniors themselves.
Care on Wheels started in August 2021, after Meals on Wheels volunteers were dropping off meals to clients and noticed seniors were feeling isolated. Alison Foreman, Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels president/CEO, said the program was needed.
“Caregivers and family members that were once able to come over weren’t able to come over and offer in-home companionship and even helping with chores,” Foreman said.
Care on Wheels now has around 20 clients. Each client goes through a screening process, ensuring this is something they want long-term after they vet their caregiver.
Volunteer caregivers The volunteer caregivers come in weekly for about an hour for companionship and to assist the client with chore support, laundry support and handyman services.
“I’m shrinking in size, so they tell me,” Washington said. “So, I notice when I get out of bed in the morning. It seems like that mattress is so high.”
Washington’s fear of falling from her bed was eased when volunteers came to lower her mattress.
“The people that assist you are (the) nicest people I ever had to work with. They will do anything that’s feasible,” said Washington.
The program builds trust and friendships between the caregiver and volunteer, Foreman said.
“It is meaningful to have someone in your same age range to talk with you,” Foreman said. “It’s just nice to have someone who is experiencing a lot in life that they are experiencing.”
Care on Wheels helps Washington with emotional support, too, she said. She struggles because she was extremely active when she was younger. The program, she said, helps her get through the tough times now that she can’t be as active as she used to be.
Care on Wheels hopes to expand, offering services to all Meals on Wheels participants. Interested volunteers should click here for more information.
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