An older gentleman sat in his room in a nursing home staring out the window. As he looked out, he reminisced of better days, and he wondered how his life could have changed so much. He recalled watching his son grow up and playing ball with him after work. He thought about the way he and his wife used to laugh and talk in the kitchen as they prepared Sunday dinner for their family. It seemed like only yesterday. His wife and friends are gone now. At 87, he can no longer make the drive to church, and he is unable to live independently. No one sees the man he used to be. They only seem to see the man he has become — old, alone, and feeble.
This situation is more common than you may think. According to data cited by the Rubin Group, 50 percent of residents in nursing facilities have no family and 60 percent of residents in long term care facilities have no visitors. Many elderly adults have outlived their friends, have no children, or their children have moved to other states to find employment.
To combat this issue, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging created a Friendly Visitor Program that is administered through your local Area Agency on Aging. Volunteers receive training and then visit with residents in long-term care facilities. Training includes classroom instruction, orientation, and an opportunity to shadow a current volunteer before you begin. Additionally, the training ensures that both volunteers and residents feel comfortable with each other.
Volunteers are thoughtful, caring, courteous visitors who provide residents with greater opportunities for communication and interaction. Through their service, volunteers:
• Help preserve residents’ companionship, mental stimulation, and quality of life;
• Participate in family council meetings (if invited to do so);
• Relay residents’ needs and concerns to the facility staff; and/or;
• Provide information to residents, their families, and facility staff about residents’ rights and advance directives.
Volunteers’ interaction with residents and facility staff improves quality of life and can help facilities to improve quality of care. If you — or someone you know — would like to become involved with the Friendly Visitors Program as a volunteer, please call 1-800-868-9095 and ask to be connected with your local Area Agency on Aging. Being trained as a Friendly Visitor is easy, and it requires little time. It can also make a big difference in your life — and help to enrich the lives of others.
Question of the Week
Q: What are the qualifications for volunteering as a Friendly Visitor?
A: To serve as a Friendly Visitor, volunteers must be 18 years of age or older; have a valid driver’s license and transportation; not use controlled substances; pass a criminal background check (which means no criminal record); and be free from any conflicts of interest (including having a family member in a facility where they serve). Volunteers must be able to communicate effectively, have a few hours of availability each week for visiting facilities, and abide by the Ombudsman Code of Ethics.
For more information, contact SC Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging (803-734-9900 or 800-868-9095) or visit www.aging.sc.gov.