Helping Hand: With the support of community caregivers, seniors and others can stay in their homes | News
It is community care.
A simple visit to the store, a trip to a doctor’s appointment, or a friendly visit can all make someone’s day.
This is the inspiration behind Community Caregivers of Greater Derry, which continues its long-standing mission of supporting older people and people with disabilities so that they can remain independent in their homes.
Now based in downtown Derry, the organization uses a strong network of volunteers to help customers with housekeeping, shopping, transportation and other services and chores. The cities served are Derry, Londonderry, Chester, Sandown, Danville, Windham and Hampstead.
Community Caregivers started out in Derry in 1988, helping individuals maintain a sense of independence through a network of volunteers available to meet specific needs.
Working over the years in several locations including the Derry Masonic Lodge before moving to Londonderry, the organization has taken over the space at 6 West Broadway which once housed a children’s museum.
The larger space offered the association the opportunity to expand the storage space of its durable medical equipment lending closet, which lends out medical equipment and other materials, as well as adding offices and a new system for cleaning and disinfecting walkers, wheelchairs and more. big items. There is also room for the community to host gatherings and support groups.
All services are free and despite the new challenges posed by the pandemic, community caregivers used 422 volunteers in 2020 and helped 318 seniors and people with disabilities.
Frontline volunteers helped clients 16,000 times, spending approximately 42,000 hours supporting those in need.
A driving need
The biggest demand continues to be transportation, according to Susanne Peace, program manager and transportation coordinator for community caregivers.
âWe have clients who needed to visit their providers in person, whose medical needs could not have been met through a phone consultation,â she says. âThey needed us because they had no other way to safely access their medical care, especially during a pandemic. “
The program has lost about two-thirds of its volunteer drivers due to concerns about COVID-19 and their own health and well-being.
Some of the volunteers who drive are also leaving the state and heading south to warmer weather during the colder months.
âRight now, we need more volunteers not only to grow our program, but also just to keep it going,â Peace said.
For each new volunteer driver, community caregivers can help three new clients from a served community. The majority of trips are within 10 miles, but clients also often have to travel to Boston or the coast for treatment.
Anyone with time to share can make a difference, says Cindee Tanuma, executive director of Community Caregivers. It could be a simple drive to a doctor’s appointment or shopping for basic necessities. and volunteers can work on their schedules, with involvement ranging from once a month to several times a week.
Valerie Bronstein decided to volunteer after learning about community caregivers and her mission. As someone who had hip surgery nine years ago and struggled to find transportation to the doctor, it was important to give your time to help.
âA lot of people need transportation as they age,â says Bronstein. âI was only able to volunteer half a day a week, but I found it very enjoyable. It met a real need in the community and I liked meeting different people. I have driven a woman several times and looked forward to my time with her.
Bronstein says she is now busy babysitting a grandchild, but one day she hopes to return to Community Caregivers as a volunteer.
Young volunteers are also welcome, says Tanuma, with the opportunity to forge meaningful intergenerational bonds along the way.
Sports teams, service clubs and youth groups are all encouraged to provide volunteer opportunities in their communities, she says.
âThe script can be as involved or as behind the scenes as you want,â Tanuma explains. âThe customer is always served and you can always volunteer in a way that’s convenient for you. “
Those hoping to volunteer attend orientation and training sessions to get used to the process and the needs. Volunteers are then matched with clients and will meet with them to get to know each other and build relationships.
These relationships can be based on hobbies or interests that can help form a strong bond. Customers can enjoy music, writing or old cars. There are games to be played that can serve both sides in a positive way.
Right now, Tanuma says the most requested service, aside from transportation, is for light tasks – those tasks that have become too difficult for someone to do, like raking leaves or taking out the trash.
There are emotional needs too, especially with many people who have spent the past year and a half becoming more isolated than before.
Community caregivers used a phone call program early in the pandemic to maintain relationships with many of the most vulnerable clients.
Tanuma says the people served by community caregivers range from very independent people in need of some support to others in need of more care and companionship.
“As you get older you have ways of wanting to be helped,” Tanuma says, “but other ways of not wanting to be helped.”
Volunteers learn to remain as neutral as possible about situations, while keeping an eye on if a situation may require additional attention.
Some clients have been on the community caregiver list for many years. Others need help for shorter periods, perhaps due to injury or illness.
Tanuma has been in her directorial role since 2006 and says what she does makes a difference in her life on top of the lives of so many others.
âI truly believe volunteering is the wave of the future, and I want to do what I can to support this movement,â she says. âI also enjoy giving voice to our frail and elderly clients and showing them every day that their life has meaning and that we would like to improve their quality of life for as long as possible. “