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KPFA Newscast: Share the Care Shows Holiday Kindness to the Elderly

Many people, especially the elderly, will spend the holidays alone. But a little known program, called Share the Care is changing that. Funded by a private foundation in Napa as a start-up 5 years ago, Share the Care is a program that aims to be responsive to the human needs that people have, where institutions often fail.
KPFA’s Karin Argoud reports.


Ambi: Baginski knocking on door going inside for a visit Jim saying hi and banter between them
Their talking will come up and down through the following:

“Hi Jim – it’s Yvonne. Can I come in? How ya doin’?”

Yvonne Baginski, founder of Share the Care , knocks on the door of 82 year old Jim Robbins. Robbins is dying of a heart aneurysm. Baginski visits Jim in his tiny rundown 45ft 5th wheel trailer at Miller Mobile Home Park in Napa almost every week.

Baginski: I brought you some licorice cuz I know you like it – got that sweet tooth.

Baginski is greeted with a big smile from Robbins who has visibly lost most of his teeth.

Jim: Thank you!
Baginski: You’re very welcome! How you feeling today?
Jim: I’m a little lonesome…
Baginski: We’ve been working on getting you some more help at home.

Robbins is smart, funny and still has all his wits about him. He was a plane mechanic during the Korean war and worked as a carpenter as a younger man. His hardships started when he got sick, without children or family to help him.

Jim: Well I had a stroke about 11 years ago that started all this and every time I have an exam they find something else is wrong with me. And they say I’ve got an aneurysm that I could die any day from – so that’s the story of my life.

Robbin’s aneurysm is the size of an orange next to his heart. The doctor gave him 12 months to live, it’s been 18. He was born in Salt Lake City and was raised by two aunts and uncles. He says he never knew his parents.

Jim: Didn’t want me, I guess.

Robbins says he’s used to being alone and tries not to dwell on those things. His trailer is dark and overcrowded. He passes time watching a lot of YouTube shows like National Geographic, now that he can’t walk so well. And he enjoys a good cigar.

Jim: I was sitting here by myself and thought “Wouldn’t a cigar tastes good?” so i bought some cigars. i have to die of something.

Share the Care first visited Jim when they heard he had no window in his bedroom and had been living for a year or so with a blanket to cover it.

Jim: I’ve forgotten about the window.

Share the Care repaired the window with plastic sheeting.

Baginski: Pretty soon we started visiting more often and gave him rides to the doctor and he started getting a little cadre of people around him and pretty soon life got a little better. He told me that life got a little better

Jim: I have a lot of people around making my life really pleasant. Almost everyone has been really kind to me – didn’t know there was this much good will around. So this is a new experience for me at 82 years old, I didn’t know there was people like this around.

Before she started Share the Care-Baginski was the Publisher of Born To Age, A Directory of Resources for Older Adults for 18 years. Published in 5 Bay Area Counties. Baginski says many of the current programs operating for older adults focus on medical and nutritional needs. Volunteers drop off meals… and merely say hi and leave. They are not trained to see what is actually going on, how people are getting by day-to-day or ask many questions. They don’t focus on what people needed most — kindness and connection.

Baginski: One of the things Jim and I talk about a lot is loneliness because it’s not being home alone all day that makes you lonely, it’s the inability to really connect with people.

Baginski says Share the Care has developed into a program that meets people where they’re at. She says they know the people they care for and the people know that they care. Like Jim Robbins. The program has changed her life into a life of service. She says every day is different, and she never knows what to expect.

Baginski: We have really connected in our conversations. There was one time when he was playing a beautiful song on the computer, that Edie gourmet song was just so beautiful.

(Song starts to play in background)

Share the Care is a portal into the reality of life that is rarely seen in the day-to-day hustle and bustle, those moments when you can lift the spirits of someone who is suffering or lonely or dying, like Jim. With a simple act of kindness.

(Jim singing in Spanish.)

“For Pacifica radio KPFA, I’m Karin Argoud.”