Denver police officer rebuilt first floor of elderly neighbor’s home so she wouldn’t have to live in assisted living

Once a month, Denver Police Officer Monica DeOssie and her wife take their 98-year-old roommate for pie and tequila sunrises at the Denver Diner.

Provided by Monica DeOssie

Denver Police Officer Monica DeOssie (top) and her wife, Christina DeOssie (right), sit with their neighbor Helen Soika at the Denver Diner.

The diner staff adore the elderly woman, Helen Soika. It’s one of the many routines the three have created over the years as the DeOssies have cared for Soika, who lived across the street before they moved into her home to help her.

Soika has lived in Denver for decades but she doesn’t have many friends left in town, DeOssie said. Soika’s relatives are scattered across the country.

The DeOssies first befriended Soika in 2014 after Christina DeOssie saw Soika’s husband slip and fall. The younger couple started bringing the Soikas groceries and coming over to help with household chores.

“It struck something with the two of us,” DeOssie said. “They had lived this long life and didn’t really have anybody.”

DeOssie’s kindness to Soika on Wednesday earned her a Certificate of Appreciation from Mayor Michael Hancock, one of 17 Denver police officers to receive the annual honor.

“What I appreciate most about Denver Police officers is they routinely encounter people who are struggling, or maybe having the worst days of their lives, and they make a real difference in those lives by simply caring and acting to improve someone’s situation,” Hancock said in a news release about the awards.

The Soikas moved to Denver in the 1980s for a job, DeOssie said. Helen Soika worked for an engineering firm and became the first woman allowed to buy stock in her employer’s company, DeOssie said.

Soika needed more help than ever after her husband died. Although she was healthy and independent, Soika couldn’t drive. Her lawyer recommended that she be placed in an assisted living facility.

“We just didn’t want to see that happen to her,” DeOssie said. “She was so used to being on her own and doing things herself.”

Instead, the DeOssies spent six months renovating the first floor of Soika’s home so the woman could live downstairs. They sorted through the boxes of belongings that overtook the woman’s first floor. They installed a ramp up to the backdoor so Soika could come inside easier and affixed a rail inside the shower. The couple rebuilt walls and a kitchen on the first floor.

In June, Soika fell and broke her hip. The DeOssies took turns staying with her in the hospital and in hospice while the woman recovered. Doctors said Soika might never walked again, DeOssie said. Soika’s attorney again recommended she be placed in an assisted living facility because she couldn’t live alone with such a high risk of falling.

But the DeOssies weren’t willing to watch their friend live in a home. Instead, the couple rented the second story apartment in Soika’s home.

“We just wanted it to be so that she could be completely independent,” DeOssie said.

Soika and the DeOssies have become a family, she said. The couple’s families welcome Soika at Christmas and the elderly woman was in their wedding.

“She’s so lively and she’s got so much spunk and energy in her, there’s just no way we could turn our backs and not do anything,” DeOssie said.


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