For as long as I have breath…

As the year comes to a close...

I’m taking a few moments to reflect on the past twelve months and look ahead to the next twelve. Of course, 2020 was a disaster with the virus’s onslaught, so I was hoping to get back in the groove in 2021. That happened, but not exactly in the way I had hoped.

Video calls and webinars are ok, but...

I had hoped to make a lot of personal visits to nursing homes in 2021 to meet with staff to learn more about their volunteer workforce. While video calls and webinars are good, I prefer to visit people in person. You learn more about people and their experiences when you meet face-to-face. Also, being new in the Philadelphia area, I don’t have as many contacts as in Omaha. I’m still very much in touch with the people in Nebraska, but I want to build my network here as well.

My strategy for 2021 pivoted to participating in many webinars and video calls relating to volunteer engagement and, in particular, volunteers providing support to nursing homes and other healthcare settings. On several occasions, I felt like I had to explain why I was attending as the subject matter might have been only remotely related to my efforts. But, as a result, I did connect with a lot of great people.

Meeting the champions...

As I look at the list of names, I feel fortunate to have connected with more than 30 champions of volunteers in various sectors to include and in no particular order:  Corina Sadler, Volunteer Resources Supervisor, Plano Texas, who wrote an excellent review of my book, “Creating the VolunCheer Force;” Dan Cohen, President/CEO, and Founder, Right to Music, who gave me excellent food for thought when it comes to advocacy; Penny Cook, CEO, and Joan Devine, Director of Education, Pioneer Network,  Alisa Tagg,  Director, National Association of Activity Professionals, who opened the door to present my blogs and webinars to activities professionals around the country (I’ve seen activities professionals doing some amazing things during these times); Joan Cardellino, Chair, DOVIA Sacramento, California, who understands the critical role volunteers play in healthcare; Meridian Swift, Phyliss Ayman, Cameo Rogers, who invited me to share my vision on their podcasts—and then getting to meet Dr. Gary Altheim, Founder and Executive Director of Growth and Development Services and Anthony Cirillo, CEO of The Aging Experience; Katherine Knoble, Community and Volunteer Program Manager, Capital Caring; and Angela Williamson, Community and Volunteer Relations Specialist, Blood Bank of Delmarva. .

Once again, and as I have witnessed for nearly 30 years, many great and good people are doing incredible work supporting older adults. I am so encouraged by all of them!

Looking forward...

Through all of the year’s discussions and brainstorming, I’m looking forward to 2022. I have two in-person presentations lined up for the spring. I hope I can remember how to present in person! I’m sure it will come back to me. I’m such a ham. I love teaching and interacting with groups. While giving in-person presentations may be draining for some people, it charges my batteries.

In addition to seeking out opportunities to present, I am continuing to investigate the efficacy of volunteer activities to influence nursing home quality of care measures. Although I firmly believe that it is necessary to tell the stories of nursing home volunteers who are making a significant impact on the people living and working in these places, it is also important to develop metrics for measuring that impact. Several years ago, I attended a meeting in Washington D.C. at which, among other speakers, Terry Fulmer, President of the John A. Hartford Foundation, made the general observation that nonprofits need to do a better job at reporting measurable outcomes. I left that meeting thinking about her words and how we can do that in long-term care, particularly measuring the efficacy of volunteers to impact the quality of care measures.  

My colleagues and I continue to work on such a study that attempts to do just this. I plan to submit a peer-reviewed journal article with our results in the coming year.

National Association of Nursing Home Volunteers...

Finally, with the help of many others, I will begin work developing and launching the National Association of Nursing Home Volunteers (NANHV). While larger organizations have the resources for developing vital volunteer programs in their nursing homes, many smaller nursing homes do not. In many cases, managing volunteers is an add-on to the activity professional’s already jammed job description, and as a result, the volunteer program languishes or vanishes altogether.

The NANHV would be recognized and embraced by nursing home providers as a valuable resource for increasing community awareness and engagement through well-trained credentialed volunteers who provide meaningful support for and collaborate with professional nursing home staff to improve the quality of life for the people living and working in nursing homes.

The NANHV would provide the platform for training, monitoring various volunteer efforts in nursing homes, advocating for increased volunteer engagement in nursing homes, and researching and reporting the efficacy of volunteer impact on nursing home operations.

It’s a big vision and a difficult task, but it is sorely needed, and I’m up to getting this done!

Retiring??

Retiring in 2022? No way! I love what I do, and I strongly believe in and know the power of volunteers to make a real difference. So, for as long as I have breath, I’ll continue writing, speaking, advocating, and doing whatever seems expedient and appropriate to ensure that people living in nursing homes do not continue to die prematurely from loneliness. It is a travesty, a black eye on us all, when, while we are making incredible advances in so many areas of health care that so many of our nursing homes lack the will or resources to provide for the fundamental human need for connectedness, for feelings of being loved, and for the opportunity to express love to someone.

When there is no one to visit me...

While some people living in nursing homes are fortunate to have family and friends, many do not have anyone they can call their own. So what happens to them? Who is there for them? One activities director cannot meet the emotional needs of every person living in the nursing home—the care staff runs from one end of their shift to the other. However, volunteers managed by someone trained in volunteer management can be recruited, screened, and prepared to meet the emotional needs of those who have no one. Please help me make the NANHV a reality in 2022.

What say you?

I want to know what you think. So please leave your comments, or email me I want to know what you think.

Get my book!

Be sure to get a copy of my book: “Creating the Volun-Cheer Force” as I go much deeper into this topic.

Invite me to speak at your next event...

I love being with people to share what I have learned and experienced as well as to learn from and interact with my audiences. My fees are negotiable and I can send you a complete list of presentation topics. Contact me!

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Meridian Swift
4 months ago

Paul, you are a force to be reckoned with. Thank you for championing volunteers and the intense positive impact they have on nursing home residents. I, too have seen it firsthand. If anyone can change the system, you can, so here’s to 2022 and your incredible mission and passion. Let us know how we can help.