Friday, June 15, 2012

The Longest Day

Next Wednesday, June 20th, is The Longest Day fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association in celebration of the dedication and strength is takes to live with and care for people with Alzheimer’s every day. In honor of the Alzheimer’s Association and The Longest Day, I am interviewing Volunteer Services Manager Keelea LeJeune of Alzheimer’s Family Services, Inc and Covenant Hospice. If you want to work with older people, you can contact your local hospice or Area Agency on Aging by visiting www.eldercare.gov or calling 1-800-677-1116 to find ongoing opportunities to celebrate and support older Americans. 
1. Alzheimer's Family Services, Inc. (AFS) provides support to families coping with Alzheimer's disease. Tell us a little about yourself and what services AFS provides.
My name is Keelea LeJeune and I am the Volunteer Services Manager for both Covenant Hospice and Alzheimer’s Family Services in Pensacola, Florida, an agency that provides support to families dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. AFS provides many services to the community such as counseling and referral services, a lending library of Alzheimer’s resources and information, support groups, educational series, memory screenings, and much more. To learn more about the services provided by AFS, please visit www.alzfamserv.org.

2. What are some of the challenges of caring for someone with Alzheimer’s?

There are many challenges that face caregivers of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. What we hear most often is that caregivers are exhausted and stressed. There are daily ups and downs to the disease, and caregivers can’t be sure what to expect, or how long the disease process will last, as changes are often unexpected. Most of all, of course, caregivers are dealing with the profound sadness of losing their loved one and losing the special moments, bonds and shared connections they’ve enjoyed over a lifetime.

3. This blog is about how people can make a difference in the world by helping others. What are the best ways that people can get involved in helping people with Alzheimer’s?

Putting our own time and special talents to work for the good of the community doesn’t have to be difficult; especially with organizations like AFS and Covenant, where volunteering is made easy and designed to fit the needs of the volunteer. When it comes to a disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, there are so many things a volunteer can do to assist the patient and family. Some volunteers enjoying sewing and crafting, so they make “Alzheimer’s Aprons” which keep patients occupied and interested with sounds and textures. Helping to care for the caregivers, who can be exhausted and stressed out, by offering a listening ear over the phone or during a friendly visit or even in a support group setting is a way to provide direct support. Helping to raise money through the planning and execution of fundraising and special events is a great way to help without having direct contact with patients and families, which we know isn’t necessarily for every volunteer. Everyone has a special talent, and it’s my job to put that talent to good use.

4. You are also Volunteer Services Manager for Covenant Hospice in Pensacola, Florida. What does Covenant Hospice do?

Covenant Hospice is Pensacola’s hometown hospice care provider. We’re currently approaching 30 years of serving patients and families in this area. We provide compassionate and comprehensive end-of-life care for anyone who needs us, regardless of their ability to pay. The work our staff and volunteers do here is focused on comfort, dignity, and enabling our patients to get the very most out of every single day. But we don’t just care for the patient; we care for the entire family unit, as well, no matter how that is defined by that patient. I’m proud everyday of the work we do here at Covenant Hospice.

5. What are some of the ways people can volunteer for Covenant Hospice?

Here at Covenant, I am proud to boast about our volunteer program because it has so many diverse opportunities to for the community to give back. We offer volunteers free training, and they can choose to donate their time in an administrative setting, alongside our patients and families, assisting with special events and fundraisers, or in a more specialized setting. One example is our “We Honor Vets” Volunteer Program. The program allows volunteers to work directly with our Veteran patients to make sure they get the recognition they deserve for their service to our country. Another program, “Reflections Journaling,”gives patients an opportunity to share their story and legacy. The volunteer journals the patient’s story as it’s told, and the journal is presented to the patient’s family at the time of the patient’s death. Volunteers can also put their own unique skills to work and suggest their own ideas for how they’d like to volunteer!

6. Have the number of patients you work with increased or do you see it increasing as the population ages? If so, how will you respond to that? Will volunteers play a part?

Volunteers will always play a big role in hospice care. Here at Covenant, we refer to our volunteers as the HEART of our organization. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. The roles our volunteers play are becoming more specialized every day. Veterans connecting with other Veterans, licensed massage therapists, advanced computer skills, and event planners are just a few examples of the specialized roles that volunteers fill here at Covenant Hospice today. As the population ages and more people find themselves seeking the services of Covenant Hospice, we will depend on our volunteers to be there to fill positions in the offices, assist with the special needs of patients and families, and to continue to raise the necessary funds to ensure that each and every patient and family gets the care that they need, regardless of their financial situation.

7. What would you say is the most important thing to remember when volunteering directly with older people?

I believe that volunteering with older adults is one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences out there. Many of these older people live in nursing homes or assisted living facilities in our community where they receive top notch physical and therapeutic care, but what they really long for is that human connection. To give 30 minutes or an hour of your time every week to pop in to visit someone in a nursing home won’t hurt your schedule a bit, and that person will likely look forward to seeing you all week long. I think that the key to being a great volunteer is to not go into it with your own agenda, but let the patient or family tell you what they most need, and help them to meet that need. In that way, we can be sure that we’re truly making a difference for them.

8. What kinds of things have your volunteers told you they like about working with older people?

Volunteers really enjoy working with our older patients. Volunteers forge relationships with our patients and their families, and almost always take something special away from that relationship for themselves. Seniors have so much to offer. They’re a wealth of information and experience, and always have great stories to tell and knowledge to pass along. Respecting our community’s senior population and learning from them is important. Our teen volunteer program allows teenagers to connect with the elderly and learn valuable lessons. Very often, our teen volunteers will tell us that they didn’t realize how much they had in common with the older generation. Just last year at a teen volunteer event, I overheard a conversation between a teen volunteer that was graduating from Catholic High School and a woman who lived in a nursing home that had been in Catholic High’s very first graduating class! Those two chatted for hours!

9.   Is there anything else you would like to add?

Thank you so much for your commitment to the community via this wonderful blog! I know that there are so many people out there with the time to give that just aren’t sure how to get started. It’s easy to get started or to simply learn more about volunteering at AFS or Covenant Hospice! Call me at (850) 202-0353, email me at keelea.lejeune@covenanthospice.org, or visit our website at www.covenanthospice.org or www.alzfamserv.org.

3 comments:

  1. A great post! I have really enjoyed reading it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement. Keelea had a lot of wonderful things to share, didn't she!

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  2. "If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it
    Help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save live"!
    mawaddainternationalaid

    ReplyDelete

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