Karyl Chase is the Program Manager for the Senior Companion Program, and she loves her work. She says that, “We’re in the business of human connection.”
The Senior Companion Program has been carefully designed to benefit the volunteers and the clients. This is a federal program that provides help to the elderly who want to stay in their homes, and also supports older adults to provide meaningful service. The elderly can become more and more socially isolated as physical limitations make it difficult for them to get out. And, as we’ve all experienced lately, social isolation isn’t good for anyone!
In spite of the current health concerns, people are still providing service. One volunteer, former social worker, Linda Christensen, has a client, over 100 years old, who she usually visits several times a week. And in spite of social distancing, Linda was so concerned for her that she felt she had to go and check. She was determined to do it safely, so she donned a gown, mask, and gloves, and continued to care for her client. She was able to clean and restock her fridge and make sure she had plenty of fresh food.
Our community is so ready to reach out a helping hand. Karyl says, “Right now, we need volunteers desperately. We have the capacity for 20-25 more volunteers that we can deploy very soon. Currently, we have a waiting list of about 200 people who need to be visited.”
As part of the federal guidelines for this program, volunteers need to be between 55 and 90 years old, be in good health, and able to provide light support such as helping with errands and getting groceries, companionship, company, and engagement. As a volunteer, you get cost re-imbursement for miles driven, meals, etc. There is no cost to the clients. The goal is to enable seniors who live alone to stay in their homes. “Please contact us NOW and start the enrollment process remotely.”
The best part of this program is the friendships that are formed when two people get to know each other and spend time together. There is a careful process of matching volunteers with clients, based on their needs and skills. Having a companion visiting is wonderful support for families who don’t live near their elderly relatives. The volunteers keep an eye on their clients and can alert family members if they have a health or wellness concern. It’s also a great support to families to have help running errands and so forth. It gives them time to just be together when they visit.
Now is a great time to take the time to help those around us who are in need.