AHH Stories

A New Beginning

Doris* had been putting off the knee replacement surgery for a few months. It was a daunting procedure, and she knew she would face several months of rehabilitation and recovery. A Carol Woods resident, she also knew that if the surgery went as planned, she would be free of the constant knee pain; she would be able to walk and resume her active lifestyle.

Doris went to the rehab facility at Carol Woods after her surgery, and the prognosis was positive. She wanted to make sure, however, that she would be safe when she went back to her cottage and not have a fall or a problem that would affect her surgery. So Doris reached out to the Carol Woods home care team to get some support for the first week as she recovered.

“I wanted to get home care support for the little things, from showering to walking safely to meal preparation,” she says. “I didn’t need 24-hour care, but a series of 4-8 hour shifts each day as I progressed in my rehab. Having someone with me as I began my walking outside was an important reassurance.”

After a week of home care support, Doris was ready to start living her life again on her own. She continued with physical therapy, and six months later she was back in her routine at Carol Woods, with a new knee and a new outlook.

“I know that the investment I made in home care support ensured that I would have the recovery that I wanted,” she says. “And I am so thankful to the Carol Woods and A Helping Hand team for their compassionate, professional care.”

*Clients’ names have been changed to respect their privacy.

‘A Precious Jewel’

Marsha* first heard about A Helping Hand’s volunteer companion program through the Durham County public health department. Marsha suffers from chronic back problems and she’s had two knee replacements. She has trouble getting around and needs transportation for medical appointments.

For the past year, volunteers from A Helping Hand have been providing Marsha with transportation and companionship; they come to her home every week for two-hour shifts. She says the program has transformed her life.

“The volunteers take me back and forth to doctor’s appointments. And if I need them to go into the examining room with me, they are there,” she says. “They go to the grocery store and run errands for me if I’m not able to do them myself. They also help with laundry and housework.”

Beyond the practical help she receives from the free companion program, Marsha says the volunteers have become her friends. “We’ve developed relationships and I’ve enjoyed talking with them. I was alone during the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the volunteers, Tamika, who is a student at North Carolina Central, just called to reach out to me and check in. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and kindness of all the people who work with me.”

During the self quarantine period, Marsha said she got a random knock on her door. A Helping Hand volunteer was there with a bag of groceries—the next week there was another knock and another bag of groceries.

“A Helping Hand is just a precious jewel for me,” Marsha says.

*Clients’ names have been changed to respect their privacy.

A Personal Interest

Michelle* and her elderly parents had reached the crossroads that thousands of Americans face each day. Her parents had been living independently in Chapel Hill for more than 50 years. He father was a retired professor and her mother was a piano teacher. But her mother had a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease, and her father had reached the point where he could no longer take care of his beloved wife on his own.

For Michelle, who lives in the Washington, D.C., area, the solution was clear. Her parents needed professional home care that would allow them to stay in their house and get the support they needed. So she turned to Carol Woods and A Helping Hand for a home care plan.

“From the outset, Ann Bradford and her team took a personal interest in our family and the situation,” says Michelle. “We initially started with help for my mom during the evenings and weekends. Mom needed help with bathing assistance and CNAs who would be with her to make sure she wouldn’t fall.”

Michelle says the CNAs developed strong relationships with her parents during a challenging time. “My mom had a form of dementia that affected her vision and perception. It was a really tricky situation for the care team. But the aids were aware of her problems and they were so patient with her.”

Carol Woods and A Helping Hand worked with Michelle’s parents for almost a year, until her mom passed away. Becky says she and her family will forever be grateful for the support they received. “It was so extraordinarily comforting to know that we could rely on Ann and her team during that difficult time in our lives,” she says.

*Clients’ names have been changed to respect their privacy.

Interns and Volunteers

Morgan McFadden

“I wanted to share with you the exciting news that I have been accepted to USF College of Medicine. Thank you again for writing me a letter of recommendation. The experiences that I gained from my internship at A Helping Hand were so influential on my interest in medicine, particularly humanitarianism and healthcare disparities. The program that I have been accepted to has a special focus on developing physician leaders, equipping them with the skills and knowledge needed to make meaningful changes to the healthcare system. I will always remember the wonderful time spent with my clients. They will serve as a reminder to me of the ways in which our society, including our healthcare system, can better care for members of our community that are lower socioeconomic status, older, disabled, or marginalized based on other factors.

“I also want to share with you one of the most meaningful experiences that I had while working as a medical scribe during my gap year. There was an older patient who came in with A-fib (an irregular heart rhythm if you are unfamiliar with the condition) and because other measures were failing, he was going to have to undergo cardioversion (a shock). He didn’t want his family there during the procedure, so he was in his room alone while he waited. Luckily it was a slow day, so I stayed in his room with him, knowing that he was scared. He asked me to pull my stool closer and hold his hand. In that moment, I was reminded of the guest speaker who talked to the interns about the power of human touch. So I held his hand while he told me he didn’t want to die and I reassured him that he was in the care of an amazing team of physicians. He later told me I would make a great doctor one day. As soon as the doctor came in and started to charge the paddles in preparation, his heart rate dropped back down to a safe level and we didn’t have to do the procedure. Who can say why that happened, it could have been a number of reasons, but I like to think that having someone there to comfort him and hold his hand helped ease his body and maybe played some role. This is an interaction that will always stay with me. He was 85 and he wasn’t ready to die, still looking forward to the years he had left to live, time to spend with his relatives, etc. The point is that my time with A Helping Hand has helped to shape my perspective, empathy for older adults, and career goals. Thank you so much for choosing me to be an intern for AHH two years ago, I will forever cherish this organization.”