Valley Information – Volunteer Highlight: Assist Nurses Get a Break in Brief Time period Nursing

Published: 07/17/2021 9:50:58 PM

Modified: 07/17/2021 9:50:58 PM

Over the years caregivers have called the Senior Solutions helpline asking for relief care: someone to sit with their loved one while they run errands and attend to other needs.

It was an inquiry made by the Springfield, Vt. based non-profit organization, also known as the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont, has failed to meet with its current volunteer base.

However, to help caregivers in Windsor and Windham counties, Senior Solutions has now launched a short-term care volunteer program.

“They are looking for volunteers who can provide a block of time to sit with someone who needs on-site supervision due to debilitating disabilities and aging so the caregiver can relax and just have some time to themselves,” said Vicki Mastroianni, Senior Solutions Program Coordinator. “While our volunteer base is wonderful, dedicated volunteers and their contributions are absolutely great and generous, they do not have the skills to provide the level of care that recovery requires.”

Originally, Senior Solutions employees applied through AmeriCorps for a grant that would enable them to pay a scholarship to 40 volunteers who would provide short-term care.

Around 13,000 Vermonters currently have memory disorder, including Alzheimer’s, and about 30,000 family members are helping with care, according to data compiled by staff for the grant application. That number is expected to rise by thousands as the state’s population continues to age.

Senior Solutions did not receive the grant, but the staff were not put off and the goal is to start volunteer training this fall.

“It just confirmed the need for relief care. There is currently a shortage of home care providers, ”said Mastroianni. “We have made a decision: let’s put together a plan B.”

This plan includes working with local institutions and colleges to recruit students in the medical field looking for hands-on experience.

“We are very excited to be working with the institutions and colleges to develop a credible curriculum to earn credits,” said Mastroianni.

With the grant, staff hoped to hire 40 people for short-term care in the two counties, but they know it would be difficult to find that many now.

“I think it’s unrealistic without a scholarship, but even if we could manage half of it in a year it would be great,” said Mastroianni. “We’re also working on developing various incentives that encourage people to show that level of commitment.”

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and pass a background check. Medical care training is not required as Senior Solutions offers training.

Ideally, volunteers can do three to four hours a week and work with the same family.

After the training is completed, Senior Solutions staff will continue to assist the volunteers with any questions or concerns they may have.

“All you need is a good heart and a willingness to invest a few hours a week,” said Mastroianni. “We would definitely encourage the younger generation to get involved.”

Those looking to volunteer or learn more should email Mastroianni at [email protected] or call the Senior Solutions Helpline at 802-885-2669 and ask for Mastroianni.

While the shortage of home nursing existed long before the COVID-19 pandemic, it has worsened. The need for volunteers in short-term care may be even more important today than ever before.

“Aging on the spot is now becoming a real way of life,” said Mastroianni. “It is not uncommon to find someone home alone in their 90s who may need help with their daily life. That won’t go away. ”

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at [email protected] or 603-727-3221.

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