Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Local nursing homes need your time, help...

(This column was published in the Dayton Daily News on April 2nd, 2016...)

In the greater Miami Valley, located in Southwest Ohio, there are approximately 250 nursing homes and assisted-living facilities within an hour or so drive from downtown Dayton. Almost every community you can name has at least one. Dayton and Springfield have a lot, but smaller towns like Eaton, New Carlisle, Urbana and Sidney each have at least one of these places for seniors, as well.
For 20 years, I’ve traveled around thie region performing for the folks that call these places home. I often see volunteers helping out the activity professionals who coordinate activities for the residents. These volunteers help out in many different ways. Some bring residents to and from music programs, call bingo, deliver mail, paint nails, read aloud today’s newspaper or serve refreshments.
Some read verses from the Bible, while some sing hymns. A volunteer may visit a person who is lonely, perhaps depressed and craves the comfort of a hand to hold, a face to smile at or arms to be held by. Someone to talk to. Despite the very best efforts of the special people who work as activities professionals (and they are highly dedicated and caring people), the hours can go by awfully slowly for some residents.
After talking with several of my clients, one thing is clear: We need more volunteers in our Dayton-area nursing homes. Carolyn Hoff, Activity Director at Brookhaven Nursing and Rehab in Brookville, OH, says, “The volunteer programs have been on the decline due to the overall aging of our population and also increased longevity. The baby boomers are now caretaking of their parents, children and grandchildren — and at times, their spouse — often on top of maintaining their careers thus they no longer have time to volunteer.”
Families also play an important part with those confined in these facilities, but as Hoff adds, “Often when family visit, the resident speaks to them about personal issues such as wanting to go home, finances and family issues. Whereas when a volunteer stops in, it’s relaxing light topics, comfort, social.”
Volunteers play a unique and valuable role in residents’ lives. The benefit isn’t limited to the recipients. Those who volunteer often find the work to be quite fulfilling and worthwhile.
We are transitioning in the need for care from the Silent Generation, (those 71 years of age or older) to the Baby Boomers, (those between 52 and 70). As boomers (in greater numbers) replace the previous generation, need for these facilities will grow, as will demand for additional health care professionals and other staff to provide care for the residents. Volunteers can play a vital role in this challenge.
April 10-16 is National Volunteer Week in the United States. The need for volunteers, especially in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities, has never been greater. The people who reside in these facilities are our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, our aunts and uncles and our brothers and sisters. They are our teachers, our coaches, our bosses and our co-workers.
They are our friends. Someday, they may very well be us.
Please give some thought to volunteering.
To learn more about volunteer opportunities contact a nursing home or assisted living facility near you for more information or call your local Area Agency on Aging.

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