Cheryl Coyle says she and colleague Amy Swenson “have it down to a science.”
Once a week, the two Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota employees climb into Cheryl’s silver Rav4 Hybrid and do something not because their job descriptions require it, but because it is the right thing to do.
The dedicated duo drive across Minot, stopping at apartments, houses, senior living complexes and condos to deliver Meals on Wheels to residents who aren’t able to shop or cook for themselves. Cheryl is the driver of their well-run operation, while Amy is the delivery person, deftly toting bags of cold foods and cartons of hot meals down hallways and up flights of stairs so the recipients can enjoy a well-balanced meal.
“It’s a good workout!” says Amy, who had just started her job as an Aging Life Care aide when the pandemic hit North Dakota.
Some clients request that she simply leave the meal by the door, but others get so few visitors that they look forward to seeing Amy’s friendly face. While carefully heeding social-distance and hygiene recommendations, she will enter their home, place the meal where requested, wish them a happy day and ask how they are doing.
“It’s so rewarding,” Amy says. “Most of them are doing OK and are so grateful that we are still able to deliver to them!”
Cheryl and Amy volunteered to start delivering meals for Minot’s Commission on Aging after hearing that many of the program's elderly volunteers might not be able to continue their service during the pandemic.
It is one way they’ve found to continue serving seniors, even as COVID-19 concerns have made it more difficult for them to meet face-to-face with their regular clients.
As one of LSSND’s Aging Life Care specialists, Cheryl helps her clients navigate the many complex issues and systems around aging or changes in health.
“In working with long-term care for several years, I knew that even with all of the wonderful services that are provided for seniors, there are gaps in the system and those that fall through the cracks,” Cheryl says. “Often, a person just needs an advocate and someone who can get them connected to other community resources.”
In some cases, ALC team members might be the only advocate for a client, which is one reason the ALC program is affectionately known as the “rent-a-daughter” program.
Their jobs typically require in-home visits, as many of the services they deliver are essential – such as delivering medications to clients, helping them fill out complex forms or picking up staples for them from the food pantry. Even amid COVID-19 concerns, Cheryl has found most clients still want her to visit, as the human interaction is nearly as essential to them as the tasks she does for them.
But some of Cheryl’s clients are in nursing homes, which are closed to outside visitors right now, so she now has to retain contact via phone calls, handmade cards and the occasional FaceTime chat.
She and Amy have decided to fill those gaps in their schedules by still helping the elderly and housebound, just in a slightly different way.
“We’ve been happy to partner with another senior-serving agency in the community,” Cheryl says. “It has been a highlight of our week to be able to get out in the community and assist with a needed and much-appreciated service.”
Learn more about our Aging Life Care services by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.