MODESTO -- A 79-year-old Modesto man who fell in his kitchen and likely stayed there for days because his Alzheimer's disease made him too scared and too confused to ask for help was rescued when a Meals on Wheels employee called police to check on him Friday.
Marci Kraft, an assessor with the program, called Modesto police after detecting distress in the elderly man's voice even though he was telling her he was all right and to go away.
An officer entered the man's Modesto home and found him lying, helpless, on his kitchen floor.
The man, identified only as Tom, has been a Meals on Wheels recipient since 2010. He has Alzheimer's and lives alone. The program is his only source of food and, at times, human contact.
Meals on Wheels driver Jerry Brown went to Tom's home Monday for his biweekly delivery, but Tom wouldn't answer the door, Kraft said.
He had refused to open his door in the past during bad Alzheimer's episodes when he couldn't remember who Brown was and thought Adult Protective Services was trying to take him from his home.
Brown returned Wednesday, and again Tom would not answer the door, so Brown asked Kraft to check on him.
Kraft is responsible for educating seniors about other county programs available to them, such as in-home therapy or rebates on energy bills.
She typically visits each senior twice a year. She said she has a soft spot for Tom, so she stops by his house at least once a week.
Kraft went to Tom's house Thursday and noticed it was dark inside and that newspapers had piled up on his porch. She knocked on his door and called out to him.
"I said, 'Tom, open the door,' and he says, 'I hear you, who's there?' " Kraft said. "He sounded delirious."
She left the house worried, but remembering the times in the past when he'd refused to open the door. Kraft's concern for Tom, however, had grown by Friday morning, when she decided to call police.
Tom is one of many seniors who not only benefit from the food Meals on Wheels provides, but the security of compassionate employees checking on them regularly.
Support Services Manager Dennis Pinaire said Meals on Wheels drivers typically find a senior in need of medical attention about twice a month.
He said seniors fall often and "people with dementia may lay there for quite some time because they don't know to call for help."
Tom was taken to Memorial Medical Center for treatment and was admitted. He was severely dehydrated and malnourished, Kraft said.
She visited him Friday evening and was told he probably will stay there for a few days and then be moved to a skilled nursing facility because he no longer can care for himself.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366.