Back in action

As a new school semester dawned this past January, three of our former summer interns returned to A Helping Hand as volunteers. These three students had enjoyed their time as interns, but their schedules hadn’t allowed them to continue volunteering after their internships came to an end. Now that it’s a new semester and their schedules have opened up, they were inspired to get back involved with the volunteer program!

Sumana interned in the summer of 2016. She was inspired by the three clients she worked with for several hours each week. She also got to meet a wide variety of clients that she assisted with one-time visits, providing transportation to medical appointments. When she decided to start volunteering again, she said, “I enjoyed my experience as an intern at AHH and wanted to continue with a volunteer experience that I felt was rewarding. AHH is a great experience because of the people you meet. I’ve found there is something new to learn from every client which has positively influenced the way I view the world.”

Anna Beth was also a summer intern in 2016. The connections she made with her clients made the experience meaningful for her. She had a strong affinity for one of her clients in particular, and they kept in touch after Anna Beth completed her internship. Now with a lighter course load, she was able to commit to volunteering with us again this semester. She told us, “I’m excited to get back out in the community and spend time with clients again!”

Juliette interned with us last summer. She was drawn to AHH for the service learning aspect of our internship program, as well as for the opportunity to learn more about working with older adults. Throughout the summer, the conversations she had with her clients stood out to her. “Every week gave me an opportunity to learn something new about each of my clients. They always told me how grateful they were for AHH and the help I provided them each week, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to meet people that I never would have without AHH,” she said. During her internship, she learned the importance of AHH’s work in the community, and she came back to us, in her words, “because I love being part of an organization that is so dedicated to advocating for a population that often cannot advocate for itself.”

Despite their busy school schedules, the connections these interns made to their clients and the community sparked an enduring passion for serving older adults.

Welcome back to AHH!

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!

Advocating and educating

Ms. Reynolds has been an AHH client for more than four years, and she’s also one of our strongest community advocates. Ms. R gets weekly assistance from one our interns every semester, which gets her out of the house for doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping at Aldi, and ice cream at Maple View Farms. She calls the office regularly to chat and keeps us up to date on the latest gossip. Ms. R loves getting to know the young people she meets through A Helping Hand, and often stays in touch with her interns long after they complete their semester working with her.

Ms. R also spends time advocating for A Helping Hand. In the past month, she has attended two events at UNC with us. At these job and volunteer fairs, Ms. R talked up AHH and used her charm to get students to sign up to volunteer or apply for jobs with us. Her engaging personality drew people to our table, and she had a carefully honed pitch to describe what AHH does and how important our work is to her.

Last Friday, the fall interns had their first team meeting. Read more