Companion care is an effective way to reduce social isolation, a common but harmful condition among older adults. Here’s how we address it with our programs at A Helping Hand:
- We meet the client where they are
The majority of our clients don’t have transportation available to them. Others have mobility limitations that make it difficult or even impossible to leave the house. Client can become trapped in their homes because they have no way to get out to visit friends, have coffee at a local coffee shop, or even run errands. AHH volunteers meet clients where they are, and clients can interact and connect with their volunteer without leaving home. By bringing our services to the client’s home, we make social engagement available to everyone, even if they are stuck at home.
- We enable clients to get out into the community
Many clients take advantage of AHH’s service for transportation. Volunteers drive clients anywhere they need to go, including doctor’s appointments and errands. But beyond the to-do list, volunteers also can drive clients to places where they can socialize! Ms. H loves going out to coffee with her volunteer, Ms. A makes a weekly trip to a crochet class, Ms. G loves to go to the senior center, and Ms. B goes to an exercise class. Clients have also had volunteers take them to visit family and friends, to go to church and faith community gatherings, and even to volunteer to help others in the community!
- Our clients and volunteers get to know each other
When clients enroll in our program, they are matched with a volunteer. Our volunteer coordinators get to know both the client and volunteer, so they can create a pairing that will work well. We also look for longer-term volunteers, who are able to commit to at least 3 months of service with a client. This allows a client to get to know their volunteer over time and form a bond with them.
- Our administrative staff offers phone reassurance
Our office staff goes beyond providing the logistical support of scheduling volunteers. Staff members also provide call reassurance, calling clients to check in and giving a listening ear. When we haven’t heard from a client in a few weeks, we call to make sure they’re doing okay. One of the benefits of being such a small nonprofit is that we can provide this kind of personalized care for every client.
- We host client gatherings a few times a year
As the internship sessions come to a close at the end of the spring, summer, and fall semesters, we host a celebration for the interns and their clients. This allows the clients the opportunity to say goodbye to the interns that have worked with them, and also facilitates connections among clients. Now that we’ve done these events for the past few years, clients really look forward to the opportunity to see old and new friends!
- Volunteers deliver holiday gifts
During the holidays, when isolation often feels particularly sharp, our holiday gift drive provides gifts for each of our clients. The gifts are hand-delivered by volunteers, a personal connection that often brings as much joy as the gift itself.