Maria and her family always celebrated her father, Jose’s, bi-annual visit from Mexico. His last visit, however, was much different. He wasn’t himself. Jose had become withdrawn and he began to physically distance himself from the family. His separation worsened to the point of locking himself in his room.
In desperation, Maria and her family sought medical advice but shortly afterwards, Jose suffered a stroke leaving him partially paralyzed, in a wheelchair and unable to speak. The family was devastated. Maria became her father’s caregiver and focused on his every need 24 hours a day. Jose slept all day and was awake all night. Maria was exhausted and her husband and two sons (aged 9 and 2) felt neglected. Without insurance, resources, or financial assistance, they pressed on and the household stress mounted. Eighteen months later, Jose broke his hip.
Thankfully, Jose received benefits to cover 3 months of physical therapy at UCI, but he needed more. Jose’s therapist recommended Jose continue his therapy and enjoy the social activities offered at Meals on Wheels Orange County’s Adult Day Health Care (ADHC) in Santa Ana. Maria was elated at the prospect but soon discovered that funding was not available to accommodate Jose at the ADHC. Barely coping but determined not to place Jose in skilled nursing, the family struggled without assistance. A year passed, but the call finally came.
“Thanks to God, he got accepted here,” says Maria. “I was ecstatic and overwhelmed, crying tears of joy when they told me that they had received the funding necessary for my father to attend the ADHC.”
It has been four years since Jose began attending Meals on Wheels Orange County’s ADHC and much has changed for the 82 year-old and his loving family. In addition to physical therapy, the center’s caring staff has provided the stimulus needed to make a noticeable change in his demeanor. “He is on a schedule, his brain is stimulated, he sleeps less, laughs more, and he feels a sense of purpose,” states Maria.
The benefits Jose has experienced at the ADHC, have also extended to his family who all feel relief from the tremendous strain of 24/7 caretaking. Maria has enjoyed one-on-one time with her husband and sons and they have thrived. Her oldest son Alexis, 15, said, “Thanks to this program, I was able to apply myself and get into a hybrid school that combines high school and college.” Maria has enjoyed volunteering at her younger son’s elementary school where she was awarded ‘Mother of the Year’ in 2014. She advocates for the ADHC and educates others about the benefits of the center versus the option of skilled nursing. “I’m giving back like [ADHC] gave to me,” says Maria. With tearful eyes, she adds, “Without the ADHC, I would have probably died before my father.”