May 09, 2017

Open Letter: A Mother’s Passion to Volunteer for the Elderly

My name is Megan and  I am a 32 year old mother of two gorgeous girls (one who turns 3 in June and my youngest who just turned 1). From a young age I was always interested in helping others and was often involved in programs in school helping other students learn to read.

When I left school I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could help others, hence why I now work as a school psychologist in South-western Sydney.

Growing up I didn’t get a chance to meet my grandparents and felt like I was missing out when I would see my friends and their close bond with their grandparents. I am not sure why I started to feel a desire to volunteer with the elderly but I have always had a soft spot for them.

Perhaps because I feel they are such valuable members of our society who have lived such interesting lives that I am just simply interested in providing companionship to a group of people who I admire and respect.

During my maternity leave I would regularly visit our local shopping centre for a coffee and more often than not an elderly person would stop by and talk to me about my baby. They would then tell me about their families and we would have a general chat.

They would then walk off by themselves and I would spend the day wondering if I was the only person they had spoken to for that day. It had such a significant impact on me that I couldn’t help but wonder who those in nursing homes would get to talk to except for the amazing staff that work there.

If the residents didn’t have any family nearby, who would drop by to just say hello or stop by to hear one of their amazing stories?

It was then I wanted to use some of my spare time to volunteer in nursing homes and simply visit a few people, sit down and chat about whatever it was that they wanted. To simply provide a friendly face. To show them that although their family may not be around, someone cares enough to visit them and spend their time in their company.

I am even happy to play card games, relive their youth and colour in, go for a walk around the nursing home, sit outside in the sun and simply feel loved. How hard could this be?

I thought I could simply just contact a few nursing homes in my area and say “hey, I have nothing to do 2 days a week, I would love to come and visit the residents and just provide them with some company for a few hours a day.

I have 2 daughters that would also love to come (if permitted) and what’s even better, is that I am a psychologist!” I was expecting my phone to be ringing off the hook.

I didn’t hear back from one nursing home.

One agency did email me back however they diverted me to their employment page. I was confused! Did they not understand what I actually meant? I had no plans on providing a psychological service so that couldn’t have been the issue. I was dumbfounded!

I know that each day there are elderly residents sitting in their rooms, feeling lonely, missing family, depressed and here I am (along with many others I assume) who are willing to provide simple companionship.

There were days when I use to drive home from work and I would drive pass a nursing home.

Each day an elderly man would sit out the front and wave to the cars. How heartbreaking, that he may have been that lonely that he thought he would sit and watch the cars go by and hope someone acknowledged him.

I thought to myself “I’ll stop and chat to him one day” and then he was gone. I still look for him every time I drive pass but he never returned.

I really hope that in the near future a companionship type program could become available and easily accessible to members of the community to become involved in nursing homes.

I will always be interested in volunteering with the elderly and I hope it starts to become an easier process.

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  1. I am having the same problem. I have been a registered nurse for over 40 years the last 15 in residential aged care. I have now retired and as the lady in the letter just wanted to provide companionship to residents of residential aged care facilities. I applied to one organization and the hoops i am required to go through are ridiculous. More demanding than any interview process i have been through in my whole professional career. It is a wonder there are any volunteers. I am persevering as i recognise the need for this type of service. Whilst working in the industry there was only so much i could do in a day and on the most part the residents were more interested in companionship and a chat than the clinical services i was providing. I hope the application/interview process becomes easier or many volunteers will be disheartened and give up. I realuse there have to be checks and balances for the protection of the frail elderly clients but i have been through seems over the top.

  2. I became a volunteer (at a local nursing home)filled in all the papers etc…I was assigned to a elderly lady who was totally deaf due to a ear operation that went wrong.I would write everything down on a white board what I wanted to say and she would reply in her own voice..When her husband died she moved into a self care unit…then a Aged Care Facility (nursing home) She never had Children of her own…but did have a elderly niece who visited monthly when she wasnt tied up with her own family.I would spend a minium of 2hrs a week sitting with her…..Wheeling her out into the garden…Shopping for her…All of which gave us both companionship ,,Idid this for 18mths as well as pop in and talk to other lonely people….I met the niece who appreciated me visiting her…then one day a letter came in the mail (YES in the MAIL) said my services were no longer required….No reason…..So Very upset I went and Confronted the DOM….her reply was…My overseer said I was getting to attached to my residences and that was not the place of a volunteer……So I RESIGNED…. and now I just go back as a visitor on a regular basis and nearly ALL of us are happy…..Bye the way…They do not have a good Volunteer pool

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