Meals On Wheels of San Francisco

MOWSF senior Thelma

Meet Thelma: All in the family

Posted August 25, 2014

MOWSF Blog | Senior Stories


Thelma with MOWSF social worker Janet who helped her get transit services and a grab bar for her shower.

Thelma is an elegant lady with a lovely smile. She lives just upstairs from her little sister, who is four years her junior. “We’ve never really been apart,” Thelma says.

Thelma, who retired from nursing in 2008, helped care for both her aunt and her mother as they aged. Her aunt Margie, who left the home to Thelma’s mother, once occupied the same apartment. “It was my job to make sure she had breakfast,” says Thelma, who easily grows short of breath without her oxygen machine. “Now I’m the one who has trouble breathing.”

Thelma's grandparents.

Thelma’s mother is the baby pictured in the middle. The family moved to California from Texas. Her grandmother lived to 103.

Thelma’s family originally hails from Texas, though they moved to California when her mother was a little girl. Her grandparents were farmers and settled in Merced where they grew cotton and watermelon. Growing up, Thelma would visit her aunts in the City, and, when she became an adult, she moved there herself.

Though Thelma has suffered from diabetes for more than 10 years, she managed to remain fairly active. But a few years ago her health took a turn for the worse. “When I first got sick, I could make my own meals,” she says. “But after a while I couldn’t move around so well or stand for a long time.”

Thelma (far right) with her aunt, grandmother and sister at their house in Merced.

Thelma (far right) with her aunt, grandmother and sister at their house in Merced.

Thelma’s hands also began to shake, frustrating her beautiful penmanship and making it impossible to sew. Her diminished mobility also meant she could no longer travel on cruises like she used to. Being dependent on others has been a tough transition for someone used to caring for others. “It’s been really hard,” she says. “I don’t want to be a bother to anyone but there are things I just can’t do by myself.”

Thelma started receiving services from MOWSF in May. She says appreciates the food, particularly the lunches with milk and chicken salad, and she is also thankful that her MOWSF delivery driver brings her meals up the stairs to her front door. On this visit, a MOWSF social worker Janet helped her apply and get access to SF Paratransit, which provides van and taxi services to people with disabilities or disabling health conditions.

Some days, Thelma spends many hours looking out her window at the trees in the backyard. “There’s a whole family of blue jays, and they do all these amazing things,” she says. “It makes me wish I could get out more.”