Connecting older adults to resources
It also helps to foster relationships between the older adult and local services, faith communities, spiritual care, family and friends. Volunteers serve as advocates for those they visit as well.
The Senior Companion Program serves older adults in their homes, apartments, nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Volunteer visitors keep these seniors in the loop of life. The program is supported by the Racine Dominicans, as well as by donations from individuals and organizations.Receiving a regular visit from someone makes all of the difference to Elaine.
"Before all of this baloney, I didn't need help," Elaine said. She turned to her visitor, Ellen, and added: "I need your help. When you come, I've got someone to talk to. I need something. I'm not a television freak."
Giving goes both ways
The companionship is good for Ellen, too. When she retired, she attended a Kiwanis meeting in Racine and heard a presentation about the Senior Companion Program. The timing was right for Ellen. She had decided to do some volunteer work, but was unsure just what that might be.
"My two favorite things are senior people and animals," she said. "If I volunteered at a humane society, I'd be bringing animals home, and she doesn't want to come home with me," she said jokingly pointing at Elaine.
For Racine attorney Cynthia Crowe, becoming a volunteer gave her a feeling of being connected with family even though her family is miles away in Boston. Visiting with the elderly has taught her a lot.
The elderly are not the only beneficiary of Cynthia's visits.
"For that time that Cynthia was visiting my mom, if I wanted to walk by the lake, I could. If I wanted to listen to a Harry Potter book, I could. If I wanted to talk on the phone with a friend, I could," said Carl Hubbard, who cared for his mother, now deceased, full-time at home.
"When on the weekend a person like Cynthia visited, I was a beneficiary of that good will. I appreciated her cheeriness as much as my mom," he added.
It is that connection with another human being, said Carl, that reminded his mother that she was still a valuable human being.
Adding Life to Years
Elaine Marshall had been an independent, self-acclaimed live wire who drove everywhere and did whatever she wished.
"But then all of this monkey business started," said the octogenarian, pointing to a leg brace and referring to the limits that the brace and the discovery of congestive heart disease have placed on her life. "I started really going down. And, ooooh! I'm mad. I want to do my thing. I might be old, but I'm still here."
Elaine turned to her friend and regular visitor Ellen Buschke. With a calmer voice she held out her hand and said: "If I didn't have people like you coming to visit me so that I'd have someone to be talking and complaining to..."
Ellen turned to a visitor and quickly interjected: "It is very difficult for her to complain about anything, really."
And that is the nature of their friendship. They tease, they cajole and console. They talk about family, places they have been, things that are and were a part of their lives. They visit as though they have known each other for years. But in reality, they have known each other since Elaine applied to receive visitors in the Senior Companion Program and Ellen volunteered to be a visitor.
The Senior Companion Program is on a continuous search for good companions. If you know someone who would like to visit an elderly or homebound adult, contact director S. Joyce Ballweg at email@example.com or 262-639-4100, #1299.