What it means to be a neighbor.

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One of our beloved community members at ConnectAbility & the Meet Your Neighbor Project, Ella, has lived for over a decade in a local assisted living facility. 

Over the years, she has grown to be a true friend of many community members. Ella is an older woman in her late seventies and she has no living family members at all.

She’s been invited to Thanksgiving dinners at people’s homes, visited on Christmas day, celebrated the birth of new babies, sang in the talent show, taken pictures in our photography project and been a consistent presence at parties & social events.

Ella shares a birthday with Don and they have had several group birthday parties over the years. Juicy Fruit gum, Funyuns, babies and Motown Music are some of Ella’s favorite things. Ella is loved! 

We haven’t been able to visit Ella much since the pandemic began beyond some parking lot bingo games and Vacation Bible school activities. Kate, one of our community members, called Ella’s home to check on her.

Sadly Kate found out that Ella had a stroke and was in the hospital. We had no idea and no one had gotten any notification. No one could tell Kate how long Ella had been in the hospital – maybe a month? Maybe two months?

Because Ella has no family, it was hard to find out what was going on with Ella at the hospital and what her outlook was. 

Kate persisted and Ella’s case manager met with a team at the hospital and decided that Kate could be a contact for Ella. Armed with the opportunity to access information about Ella, Kate began advocating. Facetime calls, questions to attorneys, filling out paperwork and multiple phone calls filled Kate’s days. There are still many unknown factors for Ella – what will happen to her belongings? Who will mange her money? What is her health outlook for the short and long term?

Yesterday, Ella was able to move from a hospital 50 miles away to a nursing home in our community.

We are not able to go visit her yet but she is home and surrounded by people who love her and miss her. We are grateful that Ella is one of our neighbors and that through our community network she is able to be back in our community.  

I know there are thousands of people in similar situations to Ella and it breaks my heart. People who don’t have family members or friends advocating for them – what happens to them? There is a common misconception and many people think that there is a network of social workers or case managers who step in to assist our neighbors who don’t have family or community advocates. This is not true! People who have no support from family or friends have no support. They live – and die – alone. 

It is so important to know our neighbors! Thank you Kate, Don and all of Ella’s friends and neighbors for rallying to help her now.