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Not Just A Fan. A New Life.

Lisa White, one of Family Eldercare’s licensed mental health counselors, shares her remarkable journey with her client Cheryl. It all started with a box fan.

I met Cheryl during one of our typical sweltering summers last year.

This was during the height of COVID-19. She was sheltering at home and it was HOT. Cheryl couldn’t afford to turn on her AC. She had recently become a widow and was grieving the loss of her husband. They had shared their Austin home for over a decade and she was in danger of losing it. Her bills and rent were quickly piling up. Cheryl worried about getting evicted. She worried about getting COVID. She worried about her future.

In the middle of her overwhelming grief and anxiety, Cheryl heard about Family Eldercare’s Summer Fan Drive and reached out for help. She received large box fans that kept her and her dog cool and comfortable. The fans could also save her money on her utilities.

Like all fan drive clients, she received a resource packet that included information about Family Eldercare’s other services. She read about our in-home counseling program where licensed counselors like me travel to your home for counseling services. That’s how we met.

We worked through difficult feelings together. Cheryl began to feel less overwhelmed and isolated. But she was still facing eviction. So, I referred her to our Financial and Housing Stability program, where she quickly found a case manager dedicated to keeping older adults housed. Her case manager connected her to COVID relief funding which got 5 months of rent paid, totaling over $5,000! A big weight had been lifted and Cheryl was grateful to stay in her home.

Then Winter Storm Uri hit in February 2021, and the state shut down many of its services. Cheryl was unable to get the food stamps she relied on. She once again reached out to Family Eldercare for help. Through our crisis response initiative, Cheryl received an H-E-B gift card to help hold her over until her food stamps were reinstated.

In Cheryl’s journey with Family Eldercare, she received fans to survive our heat without AC. She was able to care for her mental health, stabilize her housing, and weather some of the worst crises our state has faced in decades.

But she still faced one final obstacle: getting a COVID-19 vaccine. She had spent hours of her time searching online to locate a vaccination appointment without any luck. She told me in our counseling sessions that she was becoming increasingly frustrated and worried. Then, we learned that Family Eldercare had worked with Austin Public Health to offer a vaccine clinic at our main office. I made sure Cheryl was signed up for the clinic and she finally received her vaccine in April.

“Shouting from the rooftops!” she told me after, expressing her deep gratitude and relief for the support that has enabled her to live independently.

Resources:

Summer Fan Drive

In-home Counseling program

Financial and Housing Stability program

 

Older American’s Month: Olivia

There’s one thing you must know about Olivia Ussery. She loves to help people. “I’ve always had love in my heart. Even as a child,” she says. “I guess I was born this way.” Olivia’s got sunshine on a cloudy day. If you face a struggle, she’ll rush to your side. She’s 89-years young and she’s here to make everything better.

One piece of her big heart belongs to James–her husband of 69 and a half years—and their six children. You might assume that with such a big family, she wouldn’t have time for anything else.  You’d be wrong. While living in Germany as a military wife, she volunteered for the Red Cross. As she puts it, “there’s always time to volunteer. Even with 6 children, I could volunteer.” Over the years, Olivia has volunteered and served on several boards, including Family Eldercare’s.

In her late 30’s Olivia discovered another way to help people. She became a Licensed Vocational Nurse and worked in both hospital and home health settings. For 52 years, she was a bedside comfort, an encouraging voice, a quiet, loving presence. Olivia officially retired in 2019 at age 88.

Now, there’s one last thing you should know about Olivia. She’s a DIVA. A Divinely Inspired Virtuously Anointed Sister, thank you very much. Olivia’s joyous, vibrant soul is fed by her lifelong connection to church. The DIVAS is a women’s ministry at the David Chapel Baptist Church, where Olivia’s been a member 30 years. Among other good works, the DIVAS donate fans to the Summer Fan Drive–always in colorful bags which the recipients love.

Olivia says, “Prayer is the answer to everything.” And she strives to be a beacon of hope and love to anyone who needs it.

Let your light shine on, Olivia. For it is resplendent.

Why You Should Care About Advance Planning

–Kay Riley knows the legal system can be intimidating.  Her job is to guide you through it.  She provides advance care planning services at Family Eldercare.  To her, the job is personal. This is her story.–

My first job was answering phones at a family law firm. I started out knowing nothing. I’ve now gained a decade of experience in the legal field, but I’ll never forget how it felt to be so overwhelmed by the legal system. I think that’s a big part of the reason I was thrilled to take the lead on Family Eldercare’s new advance care planning project. I love making legal processes easier for people to understand – to share my hard-won knowledge.

 

This new project offers Medical Power of Attorney and Advance Directives at a low cost.

What’s an Advanced Directive? Basically, I can help you create a legal document outlining who will make decisions for you or outlining the decisions that you want to be made on your behalf in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. So, your advance directive can say: this is the person that I want to make the decisions for me – or, your advance directive could say: this is what I want to happen to me in a given situation.

This work is very personal for me. When my father passed it was very messy. No one knew what to do. I hated seeing my loved ones fight over what they thought he would have wanted. I wish our family would have set up an Advanced Directive. Now I tell everyone to do it. This year, two people in my life are turning 63 and 64. I can see them already starting to show the signs of aging, and I need to know that their wishes will be respected if they ever become unable to communicate how they want to be cared for.

So, if you or someone you know doesn’t already have an Advanced Directive, please reach out to me by phone at 512.628.1686 or by email at kriley@familyeldercare.org.

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I can help you navigate a complex legal system. I treat everyone who comes in for this service like I would treat one of my own loved ones – because I know they are loved by someone else. And because these simple documents can mean the difference between a family fighting and a family united.

-Special thanks to Kay Riley, Guardianship Legal Assistant, for sharing her story.

Family Eldercare Statement in Support of AAPI

Family Eldercare proudly serves and employs Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Austinites. Like other ethnic groups whose communities reflect different national origins, or whose descendants once held a different citizenship, AAPI communities face long histories of discrimination and violence in the United States. In light of the targeted violence and deaths in Atlanta, we respectfully bring attention to a long history of racist immigration policies, Orientalist stereotypes, and compounding issues discrimination including skin color, gender, sexuality, language, age, immigration status, physical ability and others. Many AAPI individuals are experiencing increased discrimination and violence in the last year, due to stereotypes that associate “foreign” with danger, “Chinese” with COVID-19, and racism that ignores the diversity of Asian-Americans, including those American-born. This has especially impacted older AAPI adults. Family Eldercare unabashedly stands for the rights, safety and dignity of AAPI clients, staff and community members everywhere.

Here are additional resources to learn more about the history and recent COVID-19 escalation of violence against AAPI:

Resources and guides for serving AAPI older adults can be found at:

Asian-American Cultural Center

Our Vision for 2021

Our vision for 2021 is to expand our partnerships and voice to ensure Central Texans have a supportive place to call home. We will focus our advocacy efforts primarily on four major areas of concern for our community.

Addressing the eviction crisis and shortages in affordable housing

In August, we joined forces with the Austin Housing Coalition to call for banning evictions through early 2021. At the press conference, we called for “state and federal leaders to extend eviction moratoriums until relief efforts are implemented. We are facing a completely predictable and preventable wave of homelessness, and banning eviction in the midst of this pandemic is a top priority.”  

Visit our Housing Crisis blog to stay informed.

Supporting professional caregivers and those receiving their care

Last October, Family Eldercare switched our focus from providing in-home caregiving directly to becoming fierce advocates to improving the system. Find out how you can take action today to support in-home caregivers and the persons they assist.

Equitable access to digital resources for older adults and persons with disabilities

As the vaccine rollout continues, one of the biggest challenges faced by our clients is that they can’t register for vaccinations because they don’t have internet, can’t afford internet, are intimidated by the registration process, or don’t have a device that would make access to registration sites manageable. As a response to this digital divide, Family Eldercare has centered our Amplify Austin campaign around this issue.

Rebuilding Lives Through Disaster Relief

While the immediate dangers of the recent winter storms may be behind us, we know that the resulting economic impacts, as well as those from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, will continue to have long-term effects on those we serve. Your gift today aids long-term recovery efforts such as safe housing, repairs, and resources for elderly and vulnerable Central Texans. It also connects them with a caring professional who will get them through life’s bumpy roads in the days, weeks, and months to come.