To help seniors deal with feelings such as cabin fever and loneliness, Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet is turning to communities in Grundy County to fill a void.
Katie Reiner, the agency’s manager for the Senior Companionship Program, said the program’s goal is to pair volunteers with homebound individuals ages 60 and older to assist them in living independently. She encourages those in need of assistance to reach out to her office.
“For Grundy County, we have four new volunteers,” she said. “It’s likely to add anywhere from 10 to 14 more referrals for Grundy County. So, we are looking for more clients for Grundy County, and, of course, always volunteers.”
Currently, there is no waitlist for those living in Grundy County.
“We cannot provide any type of personal care,” she said. “We’re really there for the socialization end of it. We can help out with transportation, any errands that they need to go to—[such as] doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, banks—and anything like that.”
The program also enables caregivers to receive respite care, if they need to be relieved and/or run errands.
Individuals seeking the services of the Senior Companionship Program are encouraged to call the agency to complete the intake process.
“The intake takes about 10 minutes to complete, if they attempt to call in,” Reiner said.
The intake typically gathers basic information, such as demographics and identified needs of prospective clients.
The program is made possible thanks, in part, to the work of volunteers. They are required to be ages 55 and older in accordance with the standards set forth by the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Volunteers must fill out an application, complete an in-person interview, pass a background check and complete a fingerprinting analysis.
If passed, the prospective applicant will undergo a 20-hour pre-service orientation training. It consists of four days of classroom-style training at the agency’s Crest Hill office and is meant to educate volunteers of, among other things, what type of clients are served, the do’s and don’ts, adult protective services, elder abuse, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
In addition, a fifth session takes place at the agency’s monthly in-service meeting, where program updates are provided and a representative from a community organization gives a presentation on available resources for both clients and volunteers.
Reiner said both volunteers and clients find benefits to the program.
Volunteers receive agency recognition twice a year, once during the summer and later around the holidays.
Reiner said volunteers are reimbursed for resources spent to help assist the agency’s clients.
“Depending on if they qualify off of their income, they can get a small stipend and then, if they’re stipend or non-stipend, they do receive mileage reimbursement,” she said.
Reiner said new volunteers are always welcome, and if they have special skills they’d like to share with the agency’s clients, they are free to do so.
“Any skill kind of goes,” she said. “It just gives something to talk about, something to do or take their clients to, and to introduce them to a new hobby. It’s something that they would also enjoy with the clients.”