A Hermiston woman might owe her life to Meals on Wheels.
When volunteer Gary Riesland knocked on Glenda Wilcox’s door a couple of weeks ago to deliver a meal, he heard her shouting for someone to call her daughter. He did, and Pam Lincoln arrived to find that her mother had fallen and been lying on her living room floor, unable to move, for more than 72 hours.
“He truly did save Mom, because she couldn’t have held out much longer,” Lincoln said, adding that her mom looked “like a zombie” when she found her.
Wilcox was severely dehydrated and spent three days in the intensive care unit before being moved to another unit at Good Shepherd Medical Center for additional care. Lincoln said she had visited her mom that Friday and Wilcox fell on Saturday night. Lincoln hadn’t been planning on stopping by again until the next Thursday, but Reisland was there Tuesday afternoon.
Riesland said he and his wife Darlene have been delivering meals for the Hermiston Senior Center for more than 30 years. They started when his mother, who took her meals at the senior center at the time, asked them to consider helping out with delivering meals to homebound seniors who can’t make it to the center.
He said they enjoy chatting with people who don’t get many visitors as they drop off meals, and in some cases even return on their own time to visit with people or help them out with small things around the house.
During his time delivering meals, Riesland said he has found people who have fallen, and in some cases after he has alerted family or the police that someone didn’t answer the door, the person has been found deceased. He has also reported cases of elder abuse that have led to law enforcement getting a senior out of a bad situation.
In the most recent case, Wilcox didn’t come to the door as usual but he could hear her yelling from the living room. She didn’t answer his questions but repeated over and over again, “Call Pam!”
“I knew something was wrong,” he said.
The Rieslands returned to the senior center and told vice president Virginia Beebe, who happens to be Wilcox’s cousin. She got in touch with Lincoln, who rushed over to find her mother on the floor, weak and disoriented, and called an ambulance.
Beebe said volunteers will always follow up with emergency contacts if someone doesn’t answer the door when they were supposed to be home. It’s a service that can be just as important as the food provided on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Lincoln said she is grateful that someone besides her is helping keep an eye on her mom after Lincoln’s father died about two months ago.
“It’s more than just delivering meals, they deliver friendship and safety,” she said.
She said their family will be coming up with better protocols to make sure her mother stays safe while maintaining her independence, and urged other families with elderly members living alone to discuss medical alert bracelets, daily phone check-ins or other safety precautions in case of a medical emergency.