I am writing today with the story of Earl,* diagnosed with advanced dementia, who has been attending Friendship Center Montecito for over two years. Earl is a Vietnam veteran with PTSD, which is triggered by stress. Often while sitting in silence, he mulls over his traumatic memories and dwells on his frustration at not being able to remember everything. What pulls him away from his troubles are happy distractions at the Center such as dancing and sing-alongs. He also loves birds and he enjoys teaching our staff the bird calls he learned in his military training.
At Friendship Center, every one of our members has their own history, interests, and needs, which is why we provide person-centered care. This is made possible by donors like you, who provide the funding for our 1:6 staff-to-member ratio, giving our program staff precious time to spend engaging with members beyond providing basic care.
Last year, Earl’s wife Mandy was diagnosed with skin cancer. Earl attended Friendship Center as she continued working part-time and went through cancer treatment, including having several melanomas removed.
Thankfully, Mandy’s treatment was successful. However, the bandages she wore were triggering for Earl, bringing back painful memories of himself and his fellow service members caught in a bomb strike in Vietnam. Earl began to become regularly agitated and mistrustful of Mandy, to the point where she needed to bring someone into their home several times each week to help Earl with basic needs, such as showering, that she could no longer manage.
As caring for Earl became more difficult with the challenges of her health and his behavior, Mandy was considering placing him in a long-term care facility. To pay for this care, Mandy planned to sell their condo and move in with a family member. Tragically, in the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow, both their family member’s home and Mandy’s car were destroyed.
For now, Mandy continues to bring Earl to Friendship Center and hire limited help at home as this combination is the only option they can afford—the average rate of Friendship Center’s day program is 75% below that of a residential care facility.
With your support, hardworking and deserving members of our community like Earl and Mandy are able to make ends meet when dealing with this long-term, debilitating illness. Won’t you consider giving this holiday season to ensure that vulnerable individuals in our community get the support they need?