When a volunteer visit turns into a lifesaver

Jason and Marsha

Last summer, Jason and Amber Kloster were planning to travel to Greece. It was a special trip – their good friend was planning a surprise engagement proposal as part of it – and they hadn’t traveled since the beginning of the pandemic.

Yet, they were concerned about leaving Marsha, Jason’s mother who has lived above them in their south Minneapolis duplex for 22 years. She’d recently had health problems that resulted in occasional memory and mobility issues.

Amber thought that if there was someone who could check in on Marsha while they were gone, it would be okay to go. A few months prior to their trip, she contacted Meals on Wheels. It’s a call that everyone is so thankful she made.

“We had a whole safety network,” recalls Amber. “We had a friend that was staying here, watching our dog, checking in. We had a lot of things in place, with Meals on Wheels being part of that. It just was a long time to leave her alone and we didn’t want her to feel alone.”

Not only did the visits from volunteers help Marsha feel less alone, they may have saved her life.

A safety plan works

One morning while they were gone, Marsha fell. She was eventually able to get back into her chair, but she was disoriented. She still doesn’t have a complete recollection of
the incident.

The Meals on Wheels volunteer showed up as expected and brought Marsha’s meal up the stairs to her. He noticed that things didn’t quite seem right and alerted Eleonore Balbach, program director of TRUST Meals on Wheels.

“Eleanore called us in Greece, and we found out that she had fallen,” says Amber. “And that was really…I don’t even know the words to say. It was just very reassuring that we knew pretty quickly that she was in need and that she didn’t have to wait for a long time.”

With that call, Amber was able to get in touch with their friend who was checking in with Marsha. She also called her father to help, and they brought Marsha to the hospital. She didn’t have any immediate life-threatening physical injuries, but it required a stay and treatment for a yet-to-be-discovered case of COVID-19.

“It was a bit stressful and concerning, obviously, when we found out,” says Jason. “But we had things in place, and we executed the plan.”

‘The first thing she said she wanted was Meals on Wheels’

Jason and Amber were able to finish their vacation as planned, knowing Marsha was in good hands at the hospital with family and friends there to help.

“After she went through her recovery and then came back home, we were talking about what supports to have for her,” says Amber. “The first thing she said she wanted was Meals on Wheels. She made sure – I think she said it twice. She wanted to make sure that the first day she got home Meals on Wheels was going to be delivering.”

“The meals are delicious and the people that deliver the meals are great,” says Marsha. She really values the interaction she gets from the visiting volunteers. That goes beyond the safety check that brought her the medical attention she needed last summer.

“It works out very well,” she says. “It’s nice to see a face, another person, because I don’t get company. I text a lot to people but other than that, I’m often alone. So, I think it’s lonely sometimes.”

Staying near family

“We want to keep my mom home as long as possible,” says Jason. “We know she’s getting a nutritious, hot meal every day and that’s allowing us to not have to worry about that.”

Living close to his mom in adulthood is something Jason cherishes. It’s why he approached her about buying a duplex 22 years ago where she could occupy the other half. He was living in Uptown then, and she was divorced from his father, living alone in
Brooklyn Center.

As an only child, Jason wants to make sure that his mom has the best care. This includes delicious meals like she prepared for him as a kid.

“She raised me with hot meals every night, still in her work clothes at 9 p.m., doing the 9-to-5 and supporting the family. And she’s always been someone to look up to. She’s just a hard-working, supportive parent,” he says.

Marsha values her independence but loves having Jason and Amber downstairs to help. Not being able to get out as often as she used to, the visits from the volunteers provide her a connection to her community along with nourishment that has aided her recovery since that fall and hospital stay.

“It’s great. It’s very, very, very good,” says Marsha of Meals on Wheels. “I’m very happy that Amber signed me up.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from Meals on Wheels, sign up here. If you’d like to volunteer to deliver meals, sign up here.