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Valuable service comes at a low cost

Ten dollars for the average person might mean a couple of magazines or lunch at a restaurant, but $10 toward transportation for Leila McDole means a safe trip to the doctor and back home.

At 89, McDole is legally blind and has crippling arthritis, but with the help of Special Years Plus, she can continue to live at home.

“If it weren’t for them, I don’t know how I’d make it,” she said. “They take me to the doctor and the  grocery store and sometimes shopping. I can’t drive myself any longer.”

McDole became a client of the nonprofit when she had to quit working due to her health.

“I took care of everybody else,” she said, recalling more than three decades as a licensed practical nurse in Pensacola, Fla., then eight years with the Fathers of St. Edmund mission in Selma, not to mention caring for her mother.

“But I don’t like this end of it!” she laughed. “Getting old may be nice, but it’s inconvenient!”

That’s the situation for most Special Years clients, said Yvonne Hatcher, program director. Since 2005, the agency has provided respite, homemaker, personal care and other assistance to the elderly, infirm or disabled. About 15 percent of Dallas County residents are over 65, and in 2000, about 29 percent of those had a homebound disability.

The house at 900 Mabry St. serves as the office and adult daycare facility. Its homebound service reaches up to 80 homes and potentially 200 people that include family caregivers who receive respite.

“Everyone does not need us every month,” Hatcher said, but the funds that Special Years receives from United Way and others “are helpful in the right hands and when used with the right attitude. All of the funding adds up, and United Way helps our hands be where they need to be.”

That might be driving clients to the doctor, picking up prescriptions from a pharmacy or cleaning a house or yard. Sometimes, those hands assist with a bath or buying groceries. In 2010, more than 2,500 hours of in-home service was provided, up from 2,000 hours in 2009. Agency caregivers also monitor nutrition and attend nursing workshops. Referrals are received from families, physicians, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, churches and various organizations.

Hatcher, who is also a nurse, has experience as director of nursing at the former Good Samaritan Hospital and the Lighthouse Convalescent Home, so her insight into the needs of the elderly has been learned from years of working with them.

“We want to make sure that people like Mrs. McDole are able to remain home as long as possible and in a nice, clean environment,” she said. “Some people don’t understand why older people’s children can’t take care of them. But in some cases, like hers, their children are older too, in their seventies with health problems of their own. For others, their children live too far away to visit often.”

As for Hatcher and the mission of Special Years Plus, “We take it literally when God said to go and feed the hungry and clothe the naked.”
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