I saw a postcard once that read, “The last good thing that may happen in a person’s life is a hospice volunteer”. For National Volunteer Month help me recognize these special caregivers who are called to the bedside.
The Hospice Foundation of America tells us that volunteers are an integral part of the hospice team. They provide wide-ranging services that include:
- Bedside support for patients.
- Family support– respite or child care.
- Bereavement support.
- Clerical tasks.
- Activities such as gardening or pet care.
- Complementary therapies.
Why does Hospice have Volunteers?
Hospice services are covered by Medicare, which mandates that hospices maintain volunteers who supplements paid employees. Therefore, volunteers make up an important part of the team. Most hospices provide training for people interested in volunteering. According to The Hospice Volunteer Association the amount and kind of training depends on the role the volunteer will play.
I’ve experienced first-hand rewards of hospice volunteering. I spent time with people in nursing homes who didn’t have family. I often provided Compassionate Touch to comfort. One experience stands out. A 47 y/o man with late stage ALS could no longer move his body, however he still could speak with effort. Once while providing skilled touch, he said with great effort something so profound that it has stayed with me ever since. “When I’m touched, it’s the only time I don’t feel like a sick person.” I have reflected on those words many times. However, I understand that without volunteering I wouldn’t have received that gift.
Consider becoming a hospice volunteer. Take a few minutes to listen to this short recording that addresses some basic questions.
Ann Catlin is a team member of the AGE-u-cate Training Institute as they return the human touch to caregiving.
In recognition of National Volunteer’s month, I’d like to honor the people who serve as long-term care ombudsman. Many people do not realize the important role they play in keeping our elders safe by advocating for their rights.
The long-term care ombudsman program is mandated by state and federal law and funded by the Older Americans Act (OAA) through the Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Under this Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.
According to the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center (NORC), each state has an Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Office), headed by a full-time State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (Ombudsman) who directs the program statewide. Across the nation, staff and thousands of volunteers are designated by State Ombudsmen as representatives to directly serve residents.
What is the Responsibility of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman?
The Ombudsman program advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes, assisted living facilities, and other similar adult care facilities. State Ombudsmen and their designated representatives work to resolve problems individual residents face and effect change at the local, state, and national levels to improve quality of care. In addition to identifying, investigating, and resolving complaints, Ombudsman program responsibilities include:
- Educating residents, their family and facility staff about residents’ rights, good care practices, and similar long-term services and support resources;
- Ensuring residents have regular and timely access to ombudsman services;
- Providing technical support for the development of resident and family councils;
- Advocating for changes to improve residents’ quality of life and care;
- Providing information to the public regarding long-term care facilities and services, residents’
- rights, and legislative and policy issues;
- Representing resident interests before governmental agencies; and
- Seeking legal, administrative and other remedies to protect residents.
We are honored to train many long-term care ombudsman on our programs. Their dedication and passion to help older adults are admirable. As our aging population swells, more people will reside in care facilities and the need for more ombudsman is growing. We encourage others to consider volunteering for this organization. You may contact your local Area Agency on Aging or the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Center to learn more.
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.
In celebration of Earth Day, I want to share an organization that I recently became acquainted with that is supporting the efforts of saving our National Forests. Trees for Change is a wonderful option for honoring a loved one or pet.
According to Trees for Change, the U.S. National Forests cover 8.5 percent of the United States, providing roughly 190 million acres of woodlands that serve as the home to many species of animals. These lands belong to all of us and are meant to help preserve the environment for future generations.
Sometimes, areas of U.S. National Forests need our help. When wildfires rip through them, wildlife becomes displaced, and the forests are badly scorched. Replanting trees can help to regrow these areas in order to ensure that they can one day become homes for wildlife again and places where families can explore and discover the beauty of nature.
Trees for a Change is a service that lets you do good while giving gifts to people who matter in your life. We make it possible for you to pay to have a tree or a grove of trees planted in honor of a loved one, friend, customer or employee or in memory of a deceased person or pet. Their tree gifts cost less than the average bouquet of flowers, and they make a big difference for U.S. National Forest lands.
Here’s how it works:
- You purchase the tree gift of your choice using their secure online checkout system.
- They send out the gift to you or the recipient of your present.
- A tree or a group of trees is planted in an area of a U.S. Forest that’s been damaged by fire.
- Information about where the tree is located and photos of it are posted online.
- The recipient of your gift can go online and learn about the tree. They can even use a map to find it and plan a trip to visit it!
In the age of simplicity, I think Trees for Change is a meaningful gift for both receiver and giver. I certainly know I’ll be supporting this great mission with a tree to honor loved ones in my life.
Happy Earth Day!
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who serve them.
April 22 is Earth Day. A perfect time to reflect on how nursing home residents may suffer nature deficit disorder. Our world has become increasingly high-tech, consequently our connection to nature has diminished. I’ve often heard this associated with our kids but I see it in senior care, too.
Author Richard Louv coined the term “nature deficit disorder” in his popular book, Last Child in the Woods. Children experience anxiety, depression and poor attention span when they don’t spend time outdoors.
Training senior caregivers takes me to nursing homes all around the country. It’s striking how little exposure long-stay resident have to nature. The kind that gets us dirty and we get our feet and hands in soil, water, leaves. Sounds of wild birds and wind.
Nature pre-schools create playgrounds out of logs, sand, ponds, trees, rather than playground equipment made from metal and plastic. I visited one in Michigan and it warmed my heart to see kids outdoors playing like I remember doing. Running and getting all sweaty and making mud pies! I believe we are hard-wired as humans to be connected to nature. It feeds our souls, no matter if we are 10 or 100.
In elders, nature can promote physical, mental, and social health of older adults. One study points out “that their roots, identity and good memories were closely linked to … a life lived in nature and the outdoor environment.”
Above all, anytime we have a chance to share nature with an elder, let’s do it. We’ll all be better for it!
Share an experience of connecting an elder with nature.
Ann Catlin is a team member of AGE-u-cate Training Institute.