How does a senior qualify to receive a Befrienders visitor?
A senior must be age 65 or older, fill out a senior application and be interviewed before being matched. In many cases the application is filled out by the activities director of a long-term care facility or a family member who recognizes that their loved one may benefit from having an additional visitor.
Do seniors qualify if they have family members or other friends in the area?
Yes, many of the seniors in the program have friends, family members or other agencies like Meals on Wheels, Telehelp, etc. visit them regularly and approximately 20% live with at least one family member. This does not mean they will not benefit from having an additional visitor. There are seven days in a week and as one of our supporters recently said, “The days can get pretty long when you’re alone.”
What is the age range and abilities of seniors in the program?
The age of our Befriender seniors are typically 65 years old and beyond, 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.
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.
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, watching a movie, etc.!
How often do volunteer visitors come?
Volunteers commit to meeting with their senior for at least one hour per week. Although, if the volunteer has more time or special events/activities they would like to take you to, they may visit more often or for longer periods. If your volunteer is a student, they’ll likely be gone over the December holidays.
What sorts of things do Befrienders seniors and visitors do together?
This really depends on the match. Befrienders visitors and seniors are matched together based on common interests and availability, and the seniors who come to us are all different. 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.
Is there a waiting list for seniors in the program and how long is it?
The number of seniors waiting to be matched varies depending on the time of year, but we are currently in a pandemic surge of seniors in need of a Befriender. We get more volunteers when students are in school, both because of student volunteers from MSU and from mothers who are able to be volunteer visitors while their children are in school. In the summertime, there is a much larger need for dedicated volunteer visitors. Unfortunately, there are always seniors waiting to be matched at any given time. However, it must be remembered that seniors are matched based on their interests and needs so it is not a first-come, first-serve basis. Some seniors are matched up within a week of joining the program, others may wait many months for an appropriate match. Befrienders can always use more volunteers!
What if I have other unanswered questions?
Call Befrienders anytime at 406-522-8169 or email firstname.lastname@example.org