Internships inspire careers in geriatrics

Yasmin came to A Helping Hand as an intern in the fall of 2016. At the time, she wanted to go to medical school, but didn’t know what specialty she wanted to pursue. She didn’t have much experience working with older adults, but was interested in learning more about geriatrics and elder care. “[The internship] helped me realized the health disparities that exist among older populations, and how this is a growing problem as the baby boomer generation ages that not many people are talking about,” she said. The firsthand experience she gained working with AHH clients pushed her to consider a new career path. Instead of medical school, she is now pursuing a master’s in public health, in a program specializing in health of an aging society.

After finishing her internship with AHH, Yasmin continued to be involved with older adults in the community. She continued to work at Charles House, one of the sites where she volunteered as an intern. She also got involved with the Orange County Department on Aging’s Caregiver Respite program. She’s continued to volunteer her time with A Helping Hand, serving on our holiday committee that organizes and distributes gifts to charitable program clients. She’s worked with Amanda Borer, the associate director of Charles House, on starting an NC branch of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance, a national organization committed to addressing the current and future workforce crisis in caring for an aging population. As part of the Gillings Student Interest Group on Aging, she is helping plan their annual aging conference.

Yasmin clearly has a passion for helping older adults and bringing awareness to the public health issues, and it all started with the AHH internship program! Typically our interns come to us with limited experience working with older adults and adults with disabilities. However, their experience with us often ignites an interest in continuing to work with this group. One of the aspects of the program that we’re proudest of is being able to inspire young people to pursue geriatrics-related fields.

Yasmin, we appreciate your continued advocacy and work on behalf of older adults in the community!



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. Read more



Kayla discovers Durham through volunteering

Kayla is a 24-year-old transplant from Honolulu, Hawaii, who came to Durham, North Carolina, to study physical therapy at Duke University. In school, she enjoys learning about the human brain and how it influences body movement, but in her spare time she also enjoys dancing and going to different community events in the Triangle. But she didn’t always feel this way.

When Kayla first moved to Durham, she felt like an outsider—disconnected from the community and unfamiliar with the area, culture, and city history. After a few weeks in the area, she decided to become more involved in the community to establish her connection to Durham and discover what it had to offer. After perusing a handful of nonprofits online, she found A Helping Hand. Kayla had previous experience working with older adults, and as a future health care clinician, she knew the value and significance of this kind of work. She immediately felt compelled to get involved.

Since becoming a volunteer at AHH, Kayla has met many people from different walks of life throughout the Triangle. By serving her clients, she gets the chance to hear their life stories and discover what brings meaning to their life. Read more



Interns make an impact

Our interns are the lifeblood of our charitable program at A Helping Hand. We rely on them to provide assistance to 40 of our volunteer clients every semester. These clients depend on their companions each week in order to go grocery shopping, get to doctor’s appointments, and pick up prescriptions at the pharmacy. Without the help of our tireless interns, we would need to recruit 30 or 40 new volunteers to serve all of our clients!

The most recent class of interns, from the summer 2017 internship, provided nearly 1,310 hours of assistance to 62 local seniors and adults with disabilities. This made a huge impact in our community and in the lives of each of our clients. In all, the interns double our capacity to serve our community. Read more



3-Degree impact

In May, A Helping Hand was chosen as the nonprofit of the month for WNCN’s 3-Degree Guarantee. Every day that WNCN’s meteorology team correctly predicted the temperature within three degrees, they donated $50 to A Helping Hand. Every donation was matched by Allen Kelly & Co. WNCN correctly predicted the temperature 26 days in May, and A Helping Hand was awarded $2,600!

This money has been set aside as a special fund for the clients in our volunteer program. If a client has an urgent need and none of our volunteers is available, Rebecca will use the 3-Degree fund to provide them with a paid companion at no cost. Without the 3-Degree fund, there would be no way for us to provide assistance to these clients who are in need at a time when all of our volunteers are busy.

So far, the 3-Degree fund has provided:

Transportation to 12 doctor’s appointments,

Transportation to 1 cataract surgery,

3 trips to the grocery store,

And 8 hours of respite care.

Without the help of our paid companions, these clients would have had no way to accomplish these crucial errands. For these clients, AHH’s services are truly their only option. Public transportation is not accessible to someone who can’t walk to the bus stop and stand until a bus arrives; a taxi or even an Uber is simply unaffordable. All of these doctor’s appointments would have to be rescheduled or canceled and the cataract surgery pushed back until transportation could be arranged. Some with no food in the house would have had no other way to go out and do their weekly shopping. And family members who stay at home while caring for a loved one would not have been able to get out and run errands or attend to their own needs.

Thank you so much to chief meteorologist Wes Hohenstein and the entire team at WNCN, and their partners at Allen Kelly & Co. They have helped, and will continue to help, many local seniors through their donation from the 3-Degree Guarantee program.

If you would like to help us continue providing this indispensable service to seniors in our community, please contribute to the 3-Degree fund using the donate link below!

Donate now!

 

 



Going the extra miles

 

When I was an intern last fall, one of the clients I assisted every week was Ms. L. She lived in an assisted living facility in Durham and was miserable there. The focus of her AHH interns each semester was helping her look for an apartment in Wilmington, so she could live on her own and be near the ocean. After years of working toward it, she finally was able to move to Wilmington in April. Although she was sad to be leaving her AHH companions behind, she was thrilled to finally be moving to a place she would be happier and more independent.

A few weeks ago, Steffi got a call from Ms. L. She was really happy in her new place, and she loved Wilmington, she said. But she’d lived there for four months, and she hadn’t been to the beach yet. Would any of her former companions be available to take her to the beach for a day?

Steffi told her that she couldn’t make any promises but she would ask the interns who had worked with Ms. L to see whether any of them would be able to go to Wilmington for a beach trip. I accepted the invitation. After looking up beaches that would be wheelchair accessible, I called Ms. L and set up a time for my visit. Last weekend, I hit the road for a day at the beach.

Ms. L was excited to show me around her new place. She had decorated her kitchen with blue towels and knick-knacks, some of which I recognized from our shopping trips in Durham. We chatted and it was clear that Ms. L was happier than she had been in the assisted living facility, although she missed the company of her neighbors. When I asked whether she was ready to go the beach, her eyes lit up.

I expected that sitting on the boardwalk at Carolina Beach would be the closest we could get to the waves, since Ms. L’s wheelchair could not travel over sand. But we stumbled upon a stretch of accessible beach surface at one of the beach entry points – a series of blue plastic tiles that allowed Ms. L’s chair to roll closer to the ocean. Ms. L slipped off her shoes and dug her feet into the sand. Her toe tapped along to the music a group of girls was playing nearby. As she gazed at the ocean, the bright blue sky, the seagulls and the people all around us, she had a smile of complete contentment on her face.

At the end of the day, I commented on how fun the afternoon had been. Ms. L responded, “There wasn’t a second of today that I wasn’t happy.”

All we had done was take a 15-mile drive to the beach, but it wasn’t something that Ms. L could have done on her own. All it took was a few hours of my time to bring her a carefree, joy-filled afternoon at the beach.