Helping The Elderly JULY 2021
In Albany County, New York, some older adults have resumed their outside activities for the first time since the coronavirus disease pandemic gripped the nation. Other seniors, however, are facing more challenges in their return to normalcy. So, Community Caregivers are stepping in to help them out.
The Guilderland-based nonprofit organization, which provides services to seniors, has teamed up with students from Albany Medical College (AMC) and social work students from Siena College and the University at Albany School of Social Welfare, to help county residents.
“We spend so much of our day memorizing every detail about different diseases, microorganisms, and medications, that those details can easily become detached from the person with the disease or illness who is taking that medication,” Michael Beauchamp, a second-year student at Albany Medical College, said in a news release about the team effort to help seniors.
Beauchamp volunteered with Community Caregivers last year and is now on the organization’s board of directors. The future medical professional is in charge of the Community Caregivers service-learning programs at AMC.
This year, Beauchamp recruited a dozen other medical students to volunteer to make assurance calls to seniors, write health and wellness articles, and facilitate lunchtime telephone chats with members of the community. Students are also arranging home deliveries for groceries, prescriptions, and other services.
Through the efforts of staff and volunteers, seniors are getting friendly in-person visits, help with transportation, shopping, and light chores. Students are also helping seniors who do not have access to computers or do not know how to use smartphones, schedule appointments for COVID-19 vaccinations, and arranging transportation to vaccination sites.
Students also benefit from the program because they receive academic service-learning credit for volunteering. Besides that, one aspect of the program—assurance calls—benefits both seniors and students.
“Assurance calls force students and volunteers making the calls to relearn how to socialize at a time when everybody could use a little more social interaction,” Beauchamp said.
Seniors Helping Seniors
Mention the word, “caregiver,” and what usually comes to mind is a younger person taking care of an older adult. Seniors Helping Seniors is an organization that changes this mental image.
Seniors Helping Seniors is a nationwide program that offers services to older adults who want to live independently but need help aging in place. The in-home caregivers, who are about the same age or younger than some of their clients, provide personal care and daily living assistance that includes:
- Personal grooming and dressing
- Overnight stays
- Light housekeeping
- Meal preparation
In Illinois, 75-year-old Tobey Ellison says she enjoys being a caregiver with Seniors Helping Seniors Metro Chicago.
“I have met some of the loveliest people and formed really good friendships,” Ellison said.
Unlike younger caregivers, Ellison says senior caregivers have more in common with their clients.
“We can relate (to each other),” Ellison explained. “You can’t relate to your aches and pains when you’re talking to a 20-year-old because they just don’t have any.”
Seniors Helping Seniors not only benefits older adults who need care but older adults who provide the care as well.
“It gets me out of the house,” Ellison said. “It gives me a purpose.”
Senior Solutions In Vermont
Walter Stover, a resident of Jamaica, Vermont, spends time visiting military veterans like himself. Stover volunteers with the Vet to Vet Vermont Visitor program which began about two years ago in cooperation with the American Legion in Brattleboro, Vermont.
The free, volunteer-based program involves veterans who provide companionship and support to other veterans. The program is set up with the same “buddy system” learned in basic training.
“Some vets do not want to talk to anybody else unless they can talk to somebody who maybe understands their situation,” Stover said.
Stover credits Senior Solutions with coordinating the program and connecting participants. Senior Solutions is the Area Agency on Aging that serves older adults in southeastern Vermont.
Stover said he became interested in volunteering after his 37-year-old daughter died.
“I thought it might be a good thing to try to help other people,” said Stover, who continued to visit veterans during the pandemic as long as there was social distancing and masking.
Julia LaGrange, who’s part of the Friendly Visitors program at Senior Solutions, said it was difficult volunteering during the pandemic. Yet, the Dover, Vermont, resident knew that seniors who were sheltering in place needed assistance and someone to visit with them. One man, LaGrange recalled, would literally stand on his porch waiting for her arrival.
“There’s nothing better than visiting somebody who’s glad to see you,” she said.
Through Senior Solutions, LaGrange has recently been meeting an older woman at least once a week.
“I play games and help her with some research that she wants to learn more about,” she said.
LaGrange does not live near her mother and she hopes that someone will extend kindness to her just as LaGrange extends to older adults she connects with at Senior Solutions.
“You pay it forward and hopefully people will treat my mother with kindness and someone will go play Scrabble with her or me when I get to be that age,” she said.
Senior Solutions recently connected Stover with a man who has dementia. The two men made plans to go fishing.
“I find it very rewarding,” Stover said about volunteering with Senior Solutions. “I think it’s true what I heard … you’ll get more out of it than you’ll give because when you help someone, the reward is there.”