Equal time? - AgingCare.com

Equal time?

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I recently made a few visits an animal shelter, and was happy to see that they have volunteers who regularly come in to be sure that each animal gets 20 minutes of one-on-one time. They spend this time petting, talking to the pet, and holding them. This time is logged, before moving on to the next animal.


I wonder why they don't have equal time, enough volunteers, in the nursing homes and assisted living facilities to spend one-on-one time with the lonely, confused, and sometimes frightened elderly and sick. They need comfort and love, too. Simple things, like reading to them, taking them for a walk, and holding their hands go a long way.

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Actually, there are organizations who visit the elderly—sometimes with companion and comfort animals. I read recently that someone actually brought a horse into a nursing home! Church groups also have volunteers who visit. I was part of a school staff once that had a teacher who organized groups of children to visit. And, I’ve read about preschools who visit on Grandparents Day.

If this truly concerns you and you are a member of a church or other group, why not organize something yourself? A weekly craft, a sing-a-long if someone you know plays an instrument. Who was the famous person who said, “Be the change”?
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Reply to Ahmijoy
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Playing the Devils Advocate here.

Far fewer animal shelters than nursing homes.

Animals give unconditional love, even the abused, it can be incredible to watch them develop trust.

Volunteering in a care facility forces people to face their own mortality.

Animals are not going to criticize friendly visitors.

Animals are not going to make racist or misogynistic comments.

People are busier than ever and there is a limit to how much volunteering any one person can do. Perhaps the answer is in getting more people volunteering in general. I know so many who have not volunteered any time to their community. And I know some who are at every event, that needs a volunteer.

There are many organizations that facilitate friendly visitors and some people do it on their own. Some corporations give their staff time off to volunteer at community events, perhaps they also give time for other volunteering efforts?

My eldest son was a volunteer dog walker at the local SPCA and my daughter was a youth volunteer (Candy Striper) at both our local hospital and a nursing home. Me, I spent over 50 hours volunteering last month.
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Reply to Tothill
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The nursing homes could advertise for volunteers to do this, but every person that regularly interacts with their patients, must have a background check, perhaps health checks and have received certain vaccinations. This costs money. Most nursing homes are dependent on insurance or private pay. Many people living in nursing homes are on medicaid, which pays even less.

If you have a family member or friend in a nursing home, I encourage you to visit them. Also, some community groups, church groups, volunteer some time, or may provide some services. Check with your church or check through your public health department if they have information about volunteer opportunities.
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jacobsonbob Aug 5, 2018
One thing that's relatively easy to do is visit additional people in the nursing home beside your parent, spouse, etc. Most days I visit my mother I spend some time chatting with other residents. Some are very old and any interaction is appreciated; some are younger and fine mentally, and are thus able to carry on meaningful conversations just as most people outside the establishment would. There are also family members of other residents who enjoy conversation, and the staff members themselves enjoy being told they are appreciated. None of these interactions requires a formal "program" of any kind. (Of course after 5 years of visiting I guess they all realize I'm not there to take advantage of anyone!)
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I think the other answers have nailed it - anybody can volunteer to pet fluffy or walk fido but spending time in a facility takes someone with at least a modicum of people skills and education about dementia and physical frailty. In order for facilities to have a good volunteer program there needs to be a structure in place to train and mentor their volunteers and direct them in activities that are actually meaningful and appreciated, in my experience it is the lack of leadership that is a real roadblock.
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Human interactions are so much more complicated than those in animal shelters. Nursing home elderly populations are extremely vulnerable. Theft, con jobs, and even physical abuse are not beyond imagining if there were volunteers coming every day to spend time with elders in their own apartments. That being said, I do think there is room for more people volunteering in organized activities at nursing homes and AL’s. For instance if the home has live music days, bring in local high school kids, or younger kids with their parents, to enjoy the music with the elders. (Nothing lights up my dad’s face like meeting little kids when we are out at the doctor and such.) One thing isolated elders need more of in their lives is the company of young people; and young people always need volunteer opportunities to put on their college applications. (One of our local nursing homes actually has a daycare in the same building, and the kids interact with the elders on most days. That seems ideal to me.)
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jacobsonbob Aug 5, 2018
Excellent comments and suggestions!
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In a perfect world. The volunteers would need to be trained in Dementia/ALZ. It takes very special people to do this kind of thing. Years ago my Church had a group of people who visited shut ins. You were asked to send cards for B/D, Xmas, Easter or just to say hi. You could mail a small pkg or visit. It was just to make people feel they weren't alone.
We really need to get our Boy and Girl Scouts of hischool age. 4H or Youth Church organizations. Teach them what Dementia is and how to deal with it. The elderly love young people. It would teach our children empathy.
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Reply to JoAnn29
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Lets talk! mothernature7@gmail.com
This is a great and humane idea. I believe here in the Los Angeles areas proponents of ethical care are working on this opportunity as the aging population continues to grow and working, 2 income families are increasing.
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Reply to coppertino
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I don't think it should be up to charitable organizations or the general public to have to educate themselves on how to be a useful volunteer, I think the facilities themselves should take the time to identify specific needs and, if not train the volunteers themselves at least, point them to where they can get the training.

Mom's AL/NH has volunteer visitors (although I've only ever seen one woman) and while it is lovely that she donates her time she is invariably visiting with the more active seniors who least need that kind of interaction. We've had little kids and their sitters come in this summer to join the NH music and singalong hour but they don't know the songs and don't interact with the residents, I'm not sure what either side gets out of it. It's easy to take your pet over to the woman practically jumping out of her chair with excitement, not so obvious to have poochie quietly interact with the motionless person who rarely opens their eyes. And in my observation other than something like an appreciation BBQ to many volunteers never get any feedback from the facility on whether their programs are successful or appreciated or what they could do to improve them if they are not.
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good answers below...but my initial reaction was not only that you were right on target, but that the goal needs to be to create shelters connected to nursing homes so that both the older adults can benefit as much from caring for the little ones as the little ones benefit from the companionship...of course bonds will form and the elders may not want to endure the losses...but maybe the adopters would have to agree to bring them back for visits:-)
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jacobsonbob Aug 5, 2018
gdaughter--I believe the question asked by Kittysharone has more to do with having people visit residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities than with having the residents of those facilities working with animals. I may be wrong, but I believe she is suggesting a parallel situation in that the kind of attention given to animals could also be given to these residents.
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that would be a nice outting to suggest to a nursing home near you
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