Audubon Area Community Services is working to reinstate its Senior Companion program following restrictions imposed during COVID-19.
The program, which has been sponsored by AACS since the mid-1970s, is a program funded by the federal government through the Corporation for National and Community Service that recruits volunteers to accompany older people in the community who could be isolated.
The volunteers, according to Robyn Mattingly, director of social support services, will go to the homes of elderly clients and provide not only companionship, but also light housekeeping and assistance with daily living needs and respite services. for the person’s caregivers.
“We are able to place our volunteers in the homes of the most fragile or vulnerable elderly who need help in their daily activities,” she said. “Companionship … isolation and depression are real issues prevalent among our senior population and this camaraderie really helps with that awareness, it helps with that isolation.”
The company, she said, also helps with cognitive orientation in older people who may have poor memory.
Repetitive activities, such as crocheting, watching or reading the news and a regular TV show, she said, all help engage older people and fight memory impairment.
Volunteer Cynthia Hagan said that one of her clients has Alzheimer’s disease and that many times during her visits she will have to work to engage him and improve her mood to get her out of bed. the morning.
She also has a regular farewell routine that the two commit to each time she visits her to help raise awareness.
Volunteers will also help with housekeeping, like doing laundry or watering flowers or even helping prepare meals for clients.
“We want our clients to do everything they can for themselves, whether it’s mobility issues, whether it’s arthritis issues; maybe they can’t hold a broom or a duster. It’s something our volunteers can do, ”said Mattingly.
Additionally, having someone at home to make sure the client is getting a balanced meal will help with nutrition and make mealtime more engaging for the individual.
“They will eat better if they have someone in front of them or if there is someone to help them prepare a nutritionally balanced meal instead of opening a box of cereal,” he said. she declared.
Mattingly said the relationship between volunteers and clients is mutually beneficial. It not only provides company and help to clients, but also gives volunteers a chance to help others in need.
“Our volunteers will tell you… they get as much, if not more, from their service because it gives them a sense of self-worth, makes them feel like they have something to do, to have someone who waiting for you and we need you, ”said Mattingly. “I’ve seen volunteers say they’ve stopped by a client’s house and the client will peek out the window, just waiting for him to come in. It’s such a fulfilling and fulfilling relationship.
Hagan said his volunteer work with the Senior Companion program has been a blessing in his life.
Having lost her husband in 2015, it not only gave her a chance to help others, but also to have company in the process herself.
“It’s a blessing to me. I have the impression that the Lord has opened my heart wide for these people. There are so many people out there who need help and it might be nothing more than picking up the phone and saying, “Hi, how are you today? “Just a little something,” she said.
The program is also an opportunity, Mattingly said, to provide respite services to caregivers of seniors, whether they need to run errands, go to the grocery store, or just have time to relax. them.
Hagan said she liked being able to give families time to take care of themselves, especially after being a caregiver herself.
“I took care of my stepfather and he had dementia so I can understand what these families are going through because I went through it and it was a really, really tough time,” she said.
During the pandemic, however, volunteers were unable to visit the elderly and instead called clients regularly to offer them companionship.
While the phone calls were helpful, Mattingly said, they did not provide the same level of service customers needed to meet the needs of day to day living.
Now that the program is back and functioning normally, Mattingly said the AACS is working to tackle its wait list and recruit new volunteers.
Mattingly says that due to the pandemic, the program has lost many of its traditional methods of recruiting volunteers and with a long waiting list of people in need of the program’s services, it needs volunteers.
“A lot of people are suffering, and not just from COVID. There are so many people in our communities… who need help, but we only have a limited number of volunteers that we can hire, ”she said.
Anyone interested in becoming a Senior Companion volunteer, she said, can contact the AACS office or go online at audubon-area.com/social.html.