Riderwood's Independent Living Residents Volunteer to Help Extended Care Residents
“The things that matter most in our lives are not fantastic or grand. They are moments when we touch one another, when we are there in the most attentive or caring way. This simple and profound intimacy is the love that we all long for.” These words appear in the brochure that describes the Caring, Comfort and Companionship Visitation Program for residents of Renaissance Gardens (RG), the extended care neighborhood at Riderwood retirement community in Silver Spring, MD. These words describe the efforts of volunteers, most of whom live in Riderwood’s independent living apartments, who on a continuing or occasional basis reach out to the extended care residents, who may be unable to be as active as they once were.
Martha Vayhinger, a social worker by profession, developed this volunteer program soon after RG opened in 2003. Her knowledge and ability to initiate activities is now evidenced by volunteers working on assignments of interest to them as well as the RG residents they serve each month.
One of the most active groups is the Welcome Committee, under the leadership of Lynn Knapp. One of her committee members is Trudy Schonberger. She describes her assignment thusly: “Most satisfying. Not only are visits beneficial to newcomers, they are also good for everyone involved such as family members and we the volunteers.”
Clara Larsen teams up with Kathryn Waesche in visiting residents in long-term care and assisted living two evenings a week. Clara says, we “try to get smiles from those we visit. Being with them is both a giving and receiving time, with us volunteers receiving their appreciation, sometimes with a laugh, or sometimes with a tear, and always thankfully.”
Hand massaging is a skill Judy Nicklason equips volunteers to do. After a training session, a volunteer can then work one-on-one with a resident in a process that can help her or him relax and sometimes even experience fewer arthritic pains. Judy explains, “The goal of Helping Hands is to offer a friendly visit, a smiling face and the comfort of gentle, loving touch that offers a special form of emotional nourishment.”
Hands are also used skillfully by several other volunteers who play the piano for religious services held at RG. Those people include Rosemary Haft, Ruth Erk, and Mary Beiter. The latter describes her experiences this way: “I have a purpose and have established a rapport with residents. Their faces light up when they see me and God gives me the privilege of being with them.”
A volunteer, who might be described as an outer-insider, is John Brunson, who in August will resume playing the piano during sing-a-long sessions for residents. RG people may have more knowledge about John than independent living folks since most of the latter have yet to meet the man who is responsible for delivering The Washington Post to their front doors.
There are many religious groups - numbering around 20 - that constitute the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant congregations at Riderwood. These volunteers visit their members at RG regularly and often expand their visiting to include their members’ neighbors as well.
Reading, discussing, listening to music, playing cards or Bingo, creating art, a wide variety of activities are offered by the volunteers who are part of the Caring, Comfort and Companionship program.
More volunteers are always welcomed and these recruits may offer new “doing-together” options that RG residents will relish. If a continuing time commitment can’t be made, volunteers are welcome to participate in special events such as the Annual Crab Feast for RG residents coming up on September 28, 2012. Introductory sessions are held for new volunteers to help ensure that their assignments match their experiences and interests.