- Written by Jessica Riel
- Published: 13 April 2017
“If LifePath couldn't help me, I wouldn't be here.”
Arlene Andognini, 81, lives in her own home on a beautiful piece of land in Rowe with her animals. “I lost my favorite black kitty last year,” she says. “He was blind. And I wasn't going to get another one because I'm kind of disabled now. Don't forget: kind of.”
About ten years ago, says Arlene, “I had something inside my foot that was like a tumor that went between all five toes like an octopus; it had tentacles. And it was making it impossible to walk.” Arlene had surgery on her foot to remove the tumor, but the scar tissue left behind caused further problems. “There were so many issues that the surgeon in Springfield said, ‘We're just putting Band-Aids on it. You are going to have to have it amputated. You might just as well do it now. The younger you are, the better to learn to walk again.’” That happened last year when Arlene was 80. “And now I'm walking!” she says. “I learned to walk again.”
Still, Arlene has to be mindful about her movements. “I have no balance, so I have to be very careful. I've fallen once in the barn last December and I'm still paying for it. But that's life! And I'm not giving up my life.”
When she needed some help to maintain her independence, Arlene called LifePath. “I had never thought about it, a friend hadn't talked about it, I really didn't know what to expect. So I called to ask,” she says, “and I'm so happy with the results. I mean, I couldn't sit here and name all things that [LifePath] has done for me already! I have a caseworker, Shauna, and I can call on her any time. And she's always such a neat personality, even on the phone, you know? I hate it when I get her voicemail!” Arlene laughs. “But she calls me back.”
Shauna Laurin, Arlene’s case manager from LifePath, worked with her to find a home health aide who comes in three times a week, which allows Arlene to continue living in her own home, where she wants to be. Home health aides can help elders like Arlene with washing and bathing; dressing; transfers, such as getting from a chair to the bed; meal preparation; washing dishes; laundry; cleaning; and other tasks suited to each elder's needs.
Were it not for LifePath, says Arlene, “I wouldn't be able to be here because there's so many things since my foot got partly amputated that I absolutely can't do.” And yet, at home, Arlene finds contentment in her days by doing the things she can do. “I feed the animals. I go to the barn. It takes forever. I don't hurry. I love all my animals and I don't want a rushing trip. I spend time playing Solitaire and I love crossword puzzles. I feed the birds.”
Last year, after her kitty passed away, a friend came to Arlene’s house and offered to take her somewhere. Arlene “went into the bathroom, washed up, grabbed my cat carrier, and within ten minutes I came out and said, ‘I'd like to go to Leverett, to Dakin, and get a cat.’” There, Arlene adopted Andi. “He weighs 15 or 16 pounds. He is older, but it's okay, because I'm older, too.”
“My animals give back so much to me, you know? It would mean heartbreak if I didn't have my animals,” says Arlene, who appreciates that she can enjoy the company of her animals in the safe environment created by the support she receives from her home health aide. “I don't think I could be here without her. It's amazing.”
Arlene has a parrot named Chica. “She's about 35 years old. She talks a lot. I got her when she was a baby.”
Her dog's name is Misha. “He's going to be four. He's 90 pounds,” says Arlene. “I hope next year to train him to be a service dog. The lady has come here and said he's trainable. We've tried a couple of things with him.”
Arlene’s tricolored donkey, Patch E., is about six years old, and she’s had him since he was a baby. “He will follow me just like a dog. And when he was little, he would bend his knees and put his knees in my lap because he was very small, and I could hug him!” Arlene says. “Well, now he even once in a while tries to get into my lap, but he's much too big.”
Code, Arlene’s horse, has been with her for 11 years, since he was a baby. “I trained the horse. I even went up to his stable before I got him and bonded with him.”
With her home health aide around to supervise, Arlene doesn’t have to worry about falling in the barn again. “It's so nice to have her because I can go in with them and just love them. I don't dare do that when I'm by myself because they both want attention. The horse will be here and I'll be loving him, and the little guy will try to get between, and I just can't deal with that anymore.” Having someone else there ensures Arlene is safe. “So she makes it a pleasure to go to the barn.”
Arlene is grateful for the ways in which LifePath has supported her desire to continue living in her home with her animals. “I don't think people realize when you read in the paper, they can only focus on one thing at a time, once a week maybe. There's probably many things that I haven't yet needed that LifePath offers. So you'll have to call for yourself.”
To learn more about how LifePath could help you or your loved ones, contact us.
Peggy - A Poem by Arlene Andognini
Down yonder, under the apple tree
Is where we used to play, my dog and me.
It was O.K. to just sit and stare
Because we did not have a care.
We might chew on a piece of grass.
She would eat hers and I’d just pass.
She would chase her tail around.
I’d lie quietly on the ground.
Might have my arm around her back.
Or we’d lie together, like in a sack.
I’d throw an apple or whatever I’d see.
Down yonder, under the apple tree.
If there was something on my mind,
I’d tell her and her eye would shine!
If we were scolded by a squirrel or a crow
She would always listen when I’d say “NO”.
I cut the shoots at the base of the tree
So we could sit on the rock and see.
Animals would come to eat apples that fell.
She would check out the spot for any new smell.
This all happened seventy years in the past.
The dog is in heaven but her memory will last.
As I look down yonder under the apple tree
Is it a memory, or the dog that I see?