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Recent News

Maybe a senior, but always a sister

Today we have a guest post from Mallory, one of our volunteers, who shared a special experience with her client Ms. H.

I thought it would be a great idea to bring Ms. H to lunch at my sorority house when she told me that she was previously a sorority house mom for another sorority at UNC and she loved all of the girls and felt like they kept her young. I figured my sorority house would be very similar to the one she lived in for 7 years, so I asked her if she would like to come. She was SO excited that I asked her and said she couldn’t wait. We planned this two weeks ago and when I got to her house to pick her up today, she was dressed and ready and couldn’t wait to get in the car to go.

My experience was, in one word, rewarding. I truly could feel the joy Ms. H was experiencing as she walked into my house, looked around and complimented the furniture and decorations, and introduced herself to everyone she saw. It reminded me that something that seems so small to you can mean so much to someone else. Taking Ms. H to lunch was no big deal to me, but it was the happiest I have ever seen her. Ms. H told me as we were leaving that she hoped we could do it again one day because she absolutely loved meeting my friends and being back in a sorority house on a college campus.

Ms. H’s reaction was in the form of a smile on her face from the time we walked in the door until well beyond when we left. She was so excited to meet my friends, tell me about her time living in a sorority house as their house mom, and hear about some of the things we do. She talked to each of my friends as if they were her own grandchildren and told each of them she was honored to know me, which made me realize the impact I have on her life, as well as the impact she has on mine.

The response from the other members of my sorority was overwhelming. Each of them were eager to meet Ms. H, find out who she was and why I was with her, and hear a little about her life. She shared with several girls about her time at UNC and asked thoughtful questions that made each person she spoke to feel like she genuinely cared about them and wanted to get to know them, which is one of my favorite things about Ms. H.

Overall, it was a great experience for everyone involved. It was incredible to be able to bring Ms. H to my house, allowing her to get to know me better, seeing how her eyes lit up, and seeing just how much she enjoyed interacting with so many people.

Ms. H also shared her story with StoryCorps as part of the Great Thanksgiving Listen. You can hear her speak about her life as a sorority house mother here!



Denise serves clients and companions with compassion

When potential clients and companions find out about A Helping Hand, the first person they meet is Denise. Denise Matthewson is our director of client services, which means she helps all of our new clients and companions through the onboarding process.

For clients, this process typically starts with a phone call from a potential client or a family member. Denise describes the type of services AHH can provide, and learns about the client’s particular needs. Then, she visits the client at home, to assess their needs more clearly and go through the enrollment paperwork. Back at the office, she shares information about the client with Rebecca, who manages and schedules the companions, so we can make a perfect client-companion match!

Denise also manages the hiring process for our new companions. She meets each applicant and completes a thorough interview, to determine if their skills match up with our clients’ needs. Denise then leads new hires through our comprehensive orientation process. (We are constantly in need of companions to serve our growing client base; you can learn more and apply here!)

Denise came to A Helping Hand because she was looking for a position that involved more one-on-one interaction than her previous work. She started working for AHH as a companion in 2009, and continued in that role for six years. Throughout that time, she served 50 clients, including several consistently for years. Over her career with AHH, Denise has completed nearly 900 client visits! When a position opened up in our office, volunteer coordinator Steffi remembered Denise’s dedication to her clients and her care and compassion. These qualities have made her a perfect fit for a role that involves connecting clients and families in need with companion care and other community resources.

As if her responsibilities with new clients and companions weren’t enough to keep her busy, Denise also serves many different community groups that are working to improve life for local seniors. She works with the Durham Partnership for Seniors, the Committee on Senior Food and Nutrition, the Chatham Aging Plan, and the Chatham-Orange Community Resource Connections.

Thank you, Denise, for taking on this challenging role with grace and empathy!



It takes a village

Two weeks ago, our new group of spring interns kicked off their internship with a day of orientation. Through this process, they learned the ins and outs of being companion. They discussed their perceptions of older adults, participated in a sensitivity training to simulate some of the physical impairments our clients experience, practiced using mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, learned about managing difficult behaviors associated with dementia, and heard from an A Helping Hand client about her experiences with companions.

In addition to their initial orientation, interns continue to learn throughout the semester through various events in the community, as well as team meetings put together by AHH. To make all of these informative trainings happen, we have a great team of people who volunteer their time to teach our interns how to work with older adults!

Kayla Chee, one of our volunteers (and our 2017 volunteer of the year!), is a physical therapy student at Duke. She provides our interns with mobility training, showing them how to use the assistive devices their clients might use – canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Stephani Deberry from Therapeutic Alternatives teaches our interns about managing dementia-related behaviors. Although not many of our interns’ clients have dementia, this training is invaluable future clinicians!

Brittany Halberstadt from the Nasher Museum provides an overview of the Nasher’s Reflections Program, a monthly guided tour for adults with dementia and their caregivers. This is one of a handful of similar programs across the U.S. that allows people with dementia to experience art.

Keegan Cheleden, a Duke Divinity School student and AHH companion, has provided trainings on a variety of subjects, including the importance of physical touch in caregiving, and death and dying.

Kathy Bonner, a former companion, has provided our interns with insights into the role of a companion. She shared her experience as a companion that our clients’ worlds get smaller as they age, and that a companion’s job is to open their worlds back up.

Jennifer Ashley, our Executive Director, provides the foundation of our training by making sure the interns understand all of our policies and procedures. She also provides an additional training during the semester on dementia as a human rights issue.

Our clients! Several of our clients have contributed their knowledge in training our interns. This semester, Ms. B answered interns’ questions and shared her positive and negative experiences with past interns. The previous semester, Ms. R, a former nurse, told the interns about her career in healthcare.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to educate our interns!



2017 Volunteer of the Year!

Our volunteer of the year is….

 

Kayla Chee!

Be sure to check out the video to find out why Kayla is such an incredible volunteer! Thank you, Kayla, for everything you do.



A very happy holiday

We thought Thanksgiving ended a month ago, but since we’ve came back to the office after the holiday break, we’ve been flooded with messages of gratitude. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” said Ms. H. Ms. L called to say, “Thank you for your Christmas gift. It just lifted me up. I was down and this just lifted my spirits.” Mr. B echoed the sentiment, saying that his gift “brightened up my otherwise gloomy life right now.”

For the past several months, the AHH holiday committee has been hard at work organizing holiday gifts for the clients in our charitable and subsidized programs. For many of these clients, a gift from A Helping Hand is the only gift they receive during the holiday season. Funds provided by the Oak Grove Ruritan Club, Activate Good, and individual contributors were used to buy gift cards, and Read more



The heroes of winter break

College students make up a significant portion of our volunteer base. We love their energy, and their schedules usually match up well with the times that clients need help the most. However, during the holidays and other school breaks when students leave town en masse, we typically have to turn down requests from clients because we don’t have enough volunteers available. This year, our volunteer base has grown, and we have several locally-based volunteers who unfailingly donate their time, no matter the season. Their dependability is getting A Helping Hand clients through the holidays! Read more