What age can volunteers be?
Our volunteers must be a minimum of 18 years old but we also have some volunteers that are near the same age as our seniors or older. The majority of our volunteers are in their 20’s and 30’s.
What is the age range and abilities of seniors in the program?
The age of our Befriender seniors typically start at 65 years old, but there are exceptions when younger than 65 years old seniors are accepted into the program. The abilities of our seniors are varied within levels of mobility, vision, hearing, and memory.
Befrienders will not accept seniors into the program who have the following health conditions, they are ineligible to be a part of the Befrienders program (though an exception may be made in some cases):
- Advanced dementia such as is consistent with Stages 6 and 7 of Alzheimer’s, including confusing of environment and surroundings, inability to remember most details of personal history, major personality changes, etc. This is not to say that a senior may not remain in our program after experiencing a decline.
- Communication issues so severe that it is impossible/improbable to carry on a relatively normal conversation with the person
Do the seniors live independently or in assisted living facilities?
Currently, we have about 70% of our seniors living independently and 30% in assisted living facilities.
Does Befrienders provide any sort of training or support to Befrienders volunteers?
Each volunteer is required to attend an interview / training session before entering our program. Volunteers receive ongoing support in the form of “check-ins” every few months to see if there is a need for additional support or information as well as the ability to contact Befrienders’ staff for support and guidance at any time.
How does a senior qualify to receive a Befrienders visitor?
A senior must be 65 or older, fill out a senior application and be interviewed before being matched. In many cases the application is filled out by the Activity Director of a long-term care facility or a family member who recognizes that their loved one may benefit from having an additional visitor.
What is the process in making a Befrienders match?
Before matching volunteers with a senior, volunteers are trained by us and we check their references and background. As for senior participants, once we receive their applications, our first step is to visit their home and learn more about their interests, hobbies, and personalities.
We then suggest a match between a particular volunteer and a senior, and we accompany them to their initial meeting at the senior’s home. If the match seems likely to be successful, then, at that point, the weekly visits are thereafter scheduled by the senior and volunteer, and of course how they choose to spend their time is up to them! Going out to lunch, strolling downtown, playing games, just chatting over tea or coffee, visiting a museum, catching a movie, etc.!
What is the time commitment for volunteer visitors?
Befrienders asks for a minimum one-year commitment from its volunteer visitors, though obviously longer is better. We ask for this commitment because it can be very difficult for a senior to meet someone new every few months. Befriender volunteers are required to spend a minimum of one hour per week visiting with their senior. If you and your senior would like to make the visits longer or more frequent, you may feel free to do so.
Do I need to have a car to be a volunteer?
It is very rare for a senior in our program to be able to drive. For this reason, it is helpful if Befrienders volunteers have a car and are willing to drive their senior places such as the grocery store, pharmacy, and library. That having been said, Befrienders does accept volunteers who do not own a car or do not feel comfortable driving a senior around town and we try to match those volunteers with seniors who are unable to leave their home or room.
What sorts of things do Befrienders seniors and visitors do together?
This really depends on the match. Befrienders volunteers and seniors are matched together based on common interests and availability, and the seniors who come to us are all different. Most of our seniors live alone. Some live in assisted living facilities and have no family to speak of. Others live with their spouses, children or other family members, but need a friend, either because they spend so much time with their caregiver that they just need to get away (and their caregiver needs a break), or because their caregivers are always asking them to do things (grooming, physical therapy, etc.) and they just need someone to visit who doesn’t want anything from them. Some seniors just want someone to take them to the grocery store and to run other errands. Others want to go for short hikes, out to coffee or on adventures! Still others have mobility issues and just need someone who is willing to sit and visit with them. The expectations of every volunteer/senior match are different, but each match has the potential to change the lives of both the senior and the volunteer visitor for the better.
What do I do if I have to miss several weeks?
It is completely understandable that volunteers will need to miss their visits from time to time. Please always make sure your senior knows if you are going to miss a visit and if you are going to be gone for two or more weeks, please also let the Executive Director of Befrienders know by calling 406-522-8169. While you are away, please consider calling or sending mail to your senior as they may be especially lonely in your absence.
I have children that may sometimes accompany me on my visits. Is this alright?
If you would like to have your children accompany you on visits, please make sure you tell Befrienders. Some seniors love having children visit them, but others do not. It may be more difficult to match a parent with a child to a senior, but we do it and for those seniors that like having children around, it can be such a happy match!
What if I have other unanswered questions?
Call Befrienders anytime at 406-522-8169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org