by Corina Sadler, CVA, Volunteer Resources Supervisor at City of Plano
I just finished reading “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force: Rethinking the Way We Use Volunteers in Long-Term Care” by Paul Falkowski Ph.D.
I first met Paul (virtually) when he interviewed me for the VolunCheerLeader Podcast. He may have been surprised to know that my Bachelor’s was in Applied Gerontology and after several volunteerism experiences with older adults in my youth I thought that would be my career path.
As many of you know I strongly believe and have witnessed first hand how volunteers providing in-person companionship in nursing homes are key to providing quality of life for the people living there and while raising the morale of the people working there.
Discovering the word for compassion in Hawaiian tradition…
I’ve written a few articles on compassion, and so for this one, I decided to do something a little different. I began by pulling up the word compassion on the internet to see what would pop up. My search produced a window with the definition of compassion, and then a “translate ‘compassion’ to” another language box appeared.
I started translating compassion into various languages starting with Afrikaans “medelye,” to Albanian “dhembshuri,” to German “barmherzigkeit,” Haitian Creole “konpasyon,” and then Hawaiian “aloha.” I stopped there because I was always under the impression that the expression “aloha” was an Hawaiian greeting and further research shows that indeed it is. But, I went on to discover that “aloha” means so much more.
Not surprisingly, one of the first objections I get for promoting and creating robust volunteer programs for long-term care communities is that it appears that I’m supporting the use of free labor. Nothing could be further from my mind! For sure, there are a lot of regulations and laws governing the use of volunteers but that should not deter you from creating and taking full advantage of a strong volunteer force.
It is becoming increasingly evident that providing quality of life through “person-centered” care is as much about nurturing meaningful relationships, that include trust, intimacy and empathy between two people. Volunteers, properly screened and trained are in the perfect place to provide that level of care. Hillcrest Health Services seems to get that!
As promised, VolunCheerLeader.com will highlight great volunteer programs and promote the idea that volunteers, i.e., “super” volunteers can take on increased responsibilities to become a trained and meaningful support for professional care staff who are often stressed and overworked, with residents, patients who suffer from what Dr. Bill Thomas calls the “Three Plagues: boredom, uselessness and loneliness.”
Daily, I’m on social media watching for hints of such programs and to my great delight, this title appeared in Twitter: “Volunteer Service for Nursing Home Residents.” I immediately clicked on it, and discovered Emilie Strommen Olsen, senior program designer for DesignIt. She and her team developed a nursing home volunteer program for a facility in Kristiansund, Norway. I immediately emailed her and arranged a Skype interview with her and the administrator of the nursing home, Stephanie Helland.
As you know, VolunCheerLeader is on a quest to identify and highlight outstanding volunteer programs. My journey is taking to me many different places to include Auckland, New Zealand. Recently, while explaining my mission to someone they immediately piped up and said, “You have to meet Jill Woodward, CEO of Elizabeth Knox Nursing Home and Hospital. After a series of emails, we scheduled a telephone call (Skype) and to no real surprise to me, the person who answered the call, Jill, was obviously full of passion, high energy and expert in her work. I spent about an hour talking with her. Later, I had the pleasure of meeting the Kristen O’Reilly, newly appointed to head Community Partnerships. Kristen was originally hired to develop the volunteer program for Knox. Here are excerpts from my communications with them. Read more…
The history of volunteers and their role in nursing homes is of great interest to me at the moment. I’m writing about the evolution of the volunteer role in nursing homes before and after the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987.
There is no doubt that the NHRA brought about significant and positive changes to the way older adults were viewed and how they received care.
However did we inadvertently hamstring nursing home volunteers in the process?
Delivering quality, “person-centered” care is a global need. People from around the world will gather here to collaborate, and to promote the “super” volunteer, the “credentialed” volunteer for nursing homes.
Wherever there are nursing homes, whether in U.S. or the UK, there is a ever growing need for highly trained, highly committed, compassionate, passionate volunteers serving older adults in nursing homes. For the foreseeable future, severe staffing shortages will jeopardize the ability of nursing homes to provide quality care. But, there are people in our communities who care about the living conditions older adults are facing. They care very much. They have the capacity to learn new skills. They possess a strong passion for older adults and they are willing to be trained and serve along side professional staff, not to replace them, but to support them. They do this as a way to give back to their communities while satisfying a deep desire to serve.
Volun-Cheer-Leader will spotlight people and organizations who share this same zeal and are already engaged in expanding the role of volunteers in nursing homes. In addition, Volun-Cheer-Leader will present best practices, current research and guest bloggers. This is an exciting start to what I believe is an ever increasing critical component in the delivery of long-term care.
Please join me by subscribing to this blog and join the conversation! I’m looking forward to meeting all of you! Please feel free to email me, offer your comments and share you thoughts about creating “credentialed” volunteers for nursing homes!