The Views at St. Joseph’s Hospital is home to 125 residents who are frail and mostly elderly.
Some of them are bright, engaging and interesting people. Others are less sociable due to dementias.
Every one of the residents afflicted with dementia were strong, intelligent people earlier in their lives. They lived through times of turmoil and change: the Great Depression, Second World War, the Korean conflict, the beginnings of space travel, TV and the telephone. They worked hard and contributed to building a strong community and society.
And now, in the evening of their lives, they are no longer able to reach out but they are no less human that they were. At this stage, they need others to reach out to them, to provide the caring and gentle attention that still connect them to the rest of us.
These are the volunteers St. Joe’s needs.
Brenda Phillips, director of activation, developed a program for these residents called Time for Two. The program connects volunteers with residents with a variety of conditions, from being somewhat non-social through to having advanced dementia.
Brenda explains, “The staff would love to spend quality time with these residents but they are very busy. Volunteers can do what staff can’t.”
The volunteer team leader, Sharon, trains volunteers in how to approach these residents and the kinds of things to do with them.
“Some volunteers do hand massage, some sing and others read or take the residents for walks. Some just chat. Every resident is an individual and we try to figure out what makes them happiest.”
Some residents who had insisted on staying in their rooms have been coaxed into coming into the common areas or going for walks. Some have begun to participate in relaxed conversations. There are other residents, though, who are no longer able to speak. Sharon and Brenda believe that all these residents benefit from the connection with people, even those who may not be able to express their feelings.
Because of the needs of these residents, volunteers are carefully chosen for the Time for Two program. Emotional maturity, a calm manner and very strong empathy skills are required.
Pat Allan, manager of volunteer services, says, “I’m sure that there are some very special people in our community who feel drawn to help care for and connect with the elderly members of our community who need more human contact.
“If that is you, please consider volunteering for this special program. It is well-organized and fully supported by the staff and team leaders.”
A special orientation session will be held for new volunteers this Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon at St. Joe’s. Please call Janice Wagemann to register, at 250-890-3030.
For more information, call Brenda Phillips at 250-339-1426 or Pat Allan at 250-339-1548.
— The Views