National Volunteer Week: 6 ways to help

national volunteer weekAs National Volunteer Week continues (April 21-27), we thought we’d take a look at some of the many ways you can lend your talents to help someone in need of care. While many have not yet encountered a situation where they’ve had to care for an aging family member long-term, it’s important to remember that there are currently around 65 million family caregivers in the U.S. — many of whom care for someone over the age of 50 — volunteering their time for a loved one who is sick, increasingly frail, has an illness, disability, etc. Without these people, many aging people would be forced to live in care facilities and institutions rather than enjoy the dignified confines of their own homes.

On top of this, Alz.org reported that caregivers are twice as likely to develop chronic illness than the general population. A large part of this has to due with the long bouts of stress that comes along with caring for a loved one. With that in mind, Caregiving Club CEO Sherri Snelling offered several ways you can support a family caregiver near you through volunteering.

1. Volunteer for an online care community — Online sites, such as Lotsa Helping Hands, can provide caregivers the respite they deserve and need. Through building private online communities, volunteers can help provide meals, rides and other help to caregivers using tools like HelpCenter. Other online volunteer communities Snelling recommends include CaringBridge, CareFlash and CarePages.

2. Make or deliver a meal — Every day, the Meals on Wheels Association of America utilizes help from more than 2.5 million volunteers to pack and deliver 1 million meals to those who cannot easily leave their homes (many of whom are elderly). The Red Cross offers some info on volunteering for Meals on Wheels in Nebraska.

3. Be a volunteer driver — With 83 percent of caregivers providing transportation to help their loved ones (more than 1.4 billion trips annually!) it’s no wonder that volunteer drivers are in high demand. Snelling recommends the National Center for Senior Transportation, ITNAmerica and SilverRide for driving opportunities.

4. Hospice volunteering — As we touched on in yesterday’s blog, hospices across the U.S. couldn’t function without an army of volunteers. Hospice volunteers can bring comfort and peace to grieving families, a job which can be very gratifying and emotionally fulfilling.

5. Give caregivers respite — Many caregivers don’t often get the time off they deserve to relax, recharge and refocuses their energies. However, there are many volunteer opportunities out there that can give that overwhelmed caregiver a much needed break. Snelling suggests that looking into ARCH National Respite and Resource Center and Respite Education and Support Tools (REST) are both good places to start.

6. Your pets can help, too — Many hospitals and care facilities have programs where pets (cats, dogs, rabbits, etc.) are brought in to brighten the day of patients. The largest nationwide directory for pet therapy programs is through Pet Partners.

Read the rest of Snelling’s article for more ways to volunteer.

Encompass Senior Solutions currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

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“Encompass Senior Solutions solves the problems families face in finding home health care providers they can trust. Providers who will focus on strategies that keep parents in their homes. To learn more about our health care services, visit http://www.encompass-home-health-care.com.”