Sims Library's Homebound book program provides elderly community with much-needed escape

Ashley Ford | @aford_news
Gail Ladd finds she can get away and forget her pain by immersing herself into the novels that are brought by the homebound book program.


Some residents across town only leave their homes to go to doctor appointments. Others rarely even get out of bed for being in intolerable pain. But, by immersing themselves between the pages of a novel, they can feel at times as if they are traveling the world.

The Nicholas P. Sims Library is celebrating its one-year anniversary of the homebound book program which impacts a small community of independent resident, as well as all Waxahachie nursing homes.

Nicole Matthews, programming and outreach coordinator for the library, has worked in numerous libraries in her life and knew it was time to bring the library to those who are homebound.

Twice a month, Matthews makes her rounds, dropping off and picking up books to locals. Sometimes she’ll visit and check up on them, which the residents always enjoy the most.

Gail Ladd, 73, looks forward to her bag of books every month. She’s not only homebound but nearly bed-bound.

She said it’s her back that disables her, as her spine over produces bone, slowly shutting down her nerves. She has a pain stimulator in her central vertebrae, but now her vertebrae below is closing on the nerve that controls her left leg.

Ladd has Meals-on-Wheels delivered to her, and during a delivery one day there was a flyer advertising the library’s service.

“I’ve been an avid reader all of my life but haven’t been able to, so this program to me is a lifesaver. Being confined to the bed, the only time I get up is to go to the doctor. That’s it,” Ladd explained.

She said it only took three visits for Matthews to get down her taste in books. Ladd’s favorite books are when the main characters are animals. Looking at the walls of her room, she has art depicting wolves and other animals hanging, making her passion for animals clear.

“I get engrossed in a book and it takes my mind off of my pain,” Ladd explained. “My daughter will tell you that. It makes me calmer. God bless the library. It’s the best thing they could really do.”

As the TV starred back at her and books of puzzles laid beside she said, “Well you can travel anywhere in a book. You can be anyone, you can see anything, and you can do anything. I mean even if you are physically grounded, with a book you’re not. You’re out there.”

Without the program, Ladd said she’d be doing what she did before, cry from her pain, get frustrated and become depressed.

She referenced Matthews as a saint, saying when she walks into her room to deliver books it cheers her right up.

At the next stop on Matthews' delivery route was Charlene Jacoby, who couldn't wait for her monthly fix of good reads. She was a schoolteacher her entire career, so books play a significant role in her life.

She read about the program in the newspaper and kept rereading it, eventually cutting the article out and laying it next to her chair, which she spends most of her day.

“I laid it here, and every once in a while I looked at it, and I thought, ‘there’s got to be a catch. I’m going to find out what it is.’ I probably asked them more questions than they’ve ever been asked in a hundred years,” Jacoby said.

Even though her bookcases are filled with novels she’s read or has never touched, there are some books she said she likes to revisit. Matthews brings her those, along with others Jacoby has never explored.

“I love super mysteries and you can’t find a good one on TV,” Jacoby said snuggled in her chair. “I know sister doesn’t like for me to read too much cause I get out of her world when I’m reading.”

Jacoby lives with her older sister who will be 97 in the next couple of weeks.

She said the program has impacted her life tremendously, but it’s not always the book that carries purpose. “There’s no rhyme or reason besides pure entertainment, and we have none of that. You all are our entertainment for today,” Jacoby said.

The program also serves residents in local nursing homes. Matthews visits with residents, delivering books, hosting crafting sessions and will even paint nails while listening to 50s music.

Sue Swinney, a life enrichment and volunteer coordinator, said Matthews serves as professional support to the program at Buffalo Creek. There, Matthews is heavily involved with the memory-care unit.

“They are unable to get out at all, some have some Alzheimer’s, and dementia, but the thing that they really enjoy is the reading,” Swinney said. “They are a little sluggish, a little sleepy, but when she gets to reading, they all of a sudden are paying attention. They are listening, remembering, reading stories.”

Recently, Matthews read nursery rhymes with vintage photos, appealing towards an older audience. Some of the residents will want to hang onto the book after Matthews leaves so they can keep looking at the pictures, remembering the tales behind the image.

Swinney said there aren’t many activities that have a long-term impact on their lives. But with the reading, it’s more than a 30-minute activity.

“They want to turn the pages of that book and remember after she leaves,” Swinney said. “She definitely stirs up some memories. And sometimes it’s a nice, warm comfort to hear the books being read.”

She thanked the Sims Library and Matthews for devoting her services across town.

Matthews said it’s difficult to explain the emotions she feels after spending a day lifting people’s lives.

But it’s the interaction that gives the residents something to look forward to.

“Our elderly population is very underserved — we’ve got a lot of people who come into the library, but then there’s so many that are homebound. We wanted to bridge the gap," Matthews said. "We want to take care of those people who have lived beautiful lives."