By Ruthie Boyd, Marketing Coordinator VISTA
“Jim has become part of my life, and it’s been great. Volunteering has been a wonderful experience, and I want to continue.”
Ossie Mera is the Director of Housekeeping at Mountain Lodge and a volunteer for Tri-County Health Network’s Palliative Services program on the side. Volunteers in the Palliative program help residents in San Miguel County with a variety of tasks, ranging from dropping off groceries and prescriptions to providing respite for caregivers and companionship for those who may feel isolated. Ossie learned about the Palliative volunteer program through workplace training about the effects of COVID-19 on the older population and reached out to Amy Rowan, Care Coordinator Manager, about his desire to volunteer.
Shortly, Ossie was matched with Jim, an older person who Ossie frequently calls to keep company and occasionally drops off groceries or prescriptions. Having spent a lot of time talking on the phone and creating a connection, Ossie and Jim have developed a close relationship that Ossie deeply values.
The goal of the Palliative program is to connect people like Jim with services in San Miguel County that can allow them to remain living comfortably in their homes. Whether it be during injury, due to getting older, or because of an illness, Palliative volunteers like Ossie provide valuable support.
Though the experience of living in an isolated and rural community presents a unique set of challenges for all, older adults who need assistance are often isolated from the usual support systems- particularly during the COVID pandemic. “There are lots of people out there who need a little help. The pandemic has been really taxing on everyone, and volunteering helps,” Ossie said of his rooted belief in volunteerism. While community service was not part of Ossie’s upbringing, his positive experience with the Palliative volunteer program is a driving factor in his plan to continue serving others and giving back long past his own retirement.
Like Ossie, TCHNetwork Palliative volunteer Nancy Craft strongly believes in the value of filling these gaps in support by providing her own time to those who need an extra hand. When one of Nancy’s own friends was diagnosed with cancer and their health began to decline rapidly, Nancy stepped in to assist. In doing so, she began to realize the immense need to support people who are experiencing some of these challenges and reflected on the need to have support systems in place.
“Our community is realizing, for one- we’re aging! A lot of us have been here for 40, 50 years now. And we want to stay, so we must support each other. We are rural and isolated, and of course, there are resources available, but we also have to make it happen ourselves.”
Nancy connected with Amy and joined TCHNetwork’s team of Palliative volunteers. For the past six months, she has been providing support to Jean, an older adult who has been isolated by the COVID pandemic and the danger of leaving her home. Nancy checks in on Jean frequently, providing food, prescriptions, and amenities to her as needed.
“It’s good work, I feel like a lot of times it entails being a good listener,” Nancy said of her experience with Jean. “What has been working for me is having one person to help. It helps me focus and plan my time- and I think having that real personal connection is the most effective. So as situations arise, we need more volunteers.”
Nancy’s personal connection to end-of-life support and caregiving led her to realize the ongoing need for support amongst the aging adult population in San Miguel County and the surrounding communities. Her work with Jean has been rewarding: “I feel like I’m her contact with the outside world. I’m happy to do it, and it means a lot to her,” she stated. “TCHNetwork is doing a great job—this is something that’s really needed in our community.”
While the pandemic has heightened the situation in many respects, Nancy and Ossie both believe that volunteering when you can, helps our community function best. They both look forward to the additional training they will receive from TCHNetwork on becoming caregivers equipped with specified skills to help people like Jim and Jean.
If you are looking for a way to make a valuable contribution to our community, consider volunteering in the Palliative program. For more information, contact Amy Rowan at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call at 970 708 7096.
1 Client names are pseudonyms and stories are anonymized.