Open Arms of Minnesota

Our Clients In Focus: Mercedes & Hal

Mercedes and Hal, clients.

A Caregiver's Journey With Mercedes and Hal

Every week, five days a week, Mercedes and Hal arrive at Burnsville Center between 9:30-10 a.m. They come to the mall for one purpose: walking. The couple, both in their mid-80s and married for 64 years, cherish the quiet stillness of their moments together as the shops around them slowly come to life. They typically walk for 30-45 minutes, completing two laps around the upper level. 

To a passerby, they are among the prototypical “mall walkers” often joked about in references to the habits of retirees and senior citizens. Jokes aside, these walks have become a symbol of strength, resilience, and recovery. 

Hal suffers from kyphosis, a medical condition that causes an exaggerated, forward rounding of the upper back, making it difficult for him to stand up straight. Because of this, he uses a walker and stays a few paces behind his wife where, “He watches my feet and uses them to get into a rhythm.” It’s their version of follow the leader, choreographed and executed through trust and repetition. 

When Mercedes speaks about Hal’s diagnosis of Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) in June of 2023, she doesn’t frame it as unfair or burdensome. Instead, she views it simply as another of life’s challenges they will face and overcome, together. They navigate Hal’s health journey like they navigate the upper levels of Burnsville Center: methodically, thoughtfully, lovingly, stride-for-stride. 

“After Harold was diagnosed with CHF and told to go on a low sodium diet, I immediately felt inadequate because I didn’t know how to properly prepare his meals,” said Mercedes. “I knew he had to change his diet, and I had to learn how to manage it.” 

Mercedes talks about being Hal’s caregiver with commitment, pride, and joy. Her dedication to the role is so inspiring that it’s hard to imagine her ever feeling inadequate or vulnerable about caring for her husband. 

For clients like Mercedes and Hal, Open Arms’ meals have afforded them the opportunity to live happier, healthier lives together. As seen in the photos above, Mercedes and Hal enjoy their daily walk at Burnsville Center. 

Mercedes explained, “For the first two months after his diagnosis, my main responsibility was to monitor his sodium intake. I felt insecure and even frightened because I wanted to provide Harold with the best care possible, and managing his diet was my greatest challenge. That’s when the cardiologist mentioned Open Arms – the blessing of a lifetime.” 

Mercedes refers to the Open Arms’ meals as “miracles” and “blessings” repeatedly. To her, they deserve every bit of the hyperbole. Since their first delivery of meals from Open Arms in August of 2023, Hal has experienced significant improvements in his health due to the access to food and nutrition. 

As is the case with many of Open Arms’ caregivers, the impact of a meal stretches far beyond nourishment. For Mercedes, the meals allow her several privileges: The privilege to be a better partner and less anxious caregiver. The privilege of spending less time in the kitchen, thinking about and preparing meals. The privilege of spending less money on groceries, allowing them to manage aspects of their finances such as medical bills. The privilege of dining together. The privilege of walking together. 

“Open Arms enables him to eat and not be concerned about swelling.” said Mercedes about the impact of the meals on Hal’s health. “He takes his own walker out to the car and moves with greater efficiency than ever before. Although he’s not picky and thinks the meals are magical, he would walk a mile for seafood. So, as you can imagine, he loves meals with fish!” 

The walk ends where it began. After two laps together, Hal sits down for a rest while Mercedes completes one lap on her own. 

Friday, Feb. 16, is recognized as National Caregivers Day. Open Arms is proud to support courageous caregivers like Mercedes who provide selfless care, compassion, and dignity to their loved ones in their time of need. Mercedes is amidst the nearly 200 caregivers who Open Arms currently serves.  

“I prayed to God for a way to communicate how much of a blessing Open Arms has been to us,” Mercedes said. “Because of you, I have the privilege of being a perfectionist when it comes to taking care of my Harold. Here are these meals that come to our house. They are developed by experts and crafted with such care. We never could have dreamed of having access to such a service, and here we are. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” 

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