Answering The Call -- Caring Neighbors, City Response Teams and F.I.S.H. OF SANCAP
There are many on our islands who respond to crisis within our community 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, as emergencies and unfortunate situations don’t just happen during the work week. F.I.S.H. is no exception.
Late Saturday night the SPD received a 911 call from the couple’s neighbor stating Martha had come over and believed her husband had died. The SPD and EMS arrived at Martha’s home and confirmed that Jim had passed away. Jim’s body was taken to a funeral home, and Martha’s neighbor stayed with her for the night.
FISH President & CEO Maggi Feiner received a telephone call during the early weekend hours from the Sanibel Police Department (SPD) regarding an elderly couple in need of assistance. FISH had provided health referrals for the couple in the past and knew their history; they had been married for over 50 years, and never had children. He (Jim) suffered from MS and cardiac issues; she (Martha) has advanced dementia. Both were reclusive and had very little, if any, contact with their neighbors.
The following day, FISH went to Martha’s home. According to Feiner, “She was friendly, but clearly did not understand what had happened. The house was in disarray with personal papers covering every table and chair. The land line was not working, there was no hot water and the home elevator did not work. Martha looked frail and couldn’t tell us the last time she ate anything. In checking the refrigerator there was only some peanut butter but no bread. The situation was dire, and that was only after a 30 minute assessment.”
Department of Family Services was contacted, which is “protocol in situations like this,” according to Feiner. The DFS investigator made her assessment which basically was that Martha could not take care of herself and would not be able to stay in her home without assistance, but that it could take days to arrange services. FISH social workers stepped in to find a home healthcare provider and contacted the family attorney. FISH also purchased prepared foods, stocked her refrigerator and set up wellness checks with the SPD, the family attorney and FISH staff. The following day, FISH arranged 24-hour care for Martha until appropriate placement could be determined. The neighbors purchased an inexpensive cell phone for her in the event of an emergency. FISH is visiting with Martha through this troubling time, where she talks about Jim, the love of her life. “He is someone I love ….we have a marriage of sharing, of support, of friendship…he is my best friend,” she recalls, speaking as if he were right there next to her.
FISH social workers continue to work with Martha’s attorney, her relatives and healthcare providers to insure she will receive the best treatment and care possible. “This case -- so sad, so unfortunate -- truly proves that FISH is for everyone. Martha could be anyone’s neighbor. In some cases, FISH is the only hope for our islanders to respond quickly and effectively through teamwork with all staff and City officials; we answer all calls, 365 days a year. I am very fortunate to be a part of such a caring organization, and to work with such a compassionate City, SPD and community. Our thoughts are with Martha, and for all the ‘Marthas and Jims out there,” states Feiner.
For additional information about the FISH organization and how they help all islanders, please contact Maggi Feiner, President & CEO, at the FISH Walk-In-Center 239-472-4775.a