Telling the Stories of our Lives
by Carol Dexter, integrative health volunteer
My name is Carol. I have been volunteering at Woodbury Senior Living (WSL) twice a week for about nine months. This is my story: I never lived with elders and never experienced their lives as an adult except when they were hospitalized with an acute illness, injury, or were experiencing a psychotic break. I was a nurse manager by profession, I am an extrovert by nature, and I believe that all people need to feel accepted and loved and they need to laugh with relish for the moment. When I was laid off during the last recession I could not find a job that fit my needs, nor could I continue to serve only the needs of my family and myself. I looked long and hard for a volunteer opportunity that was meaningful to me and provided a true benefit to the recipients.
I found my volunteer opportunity as an integrative therapies provider and “friend indeed” at WSL online at www.volunteermatch.org and ultimately became a volunteer in the Integrative Health Program. I was oriented effectively and was quickly able to begin working on my own. The main things I do there are befriending people and helping them deal with physical or emotional pain through physical and verbal communication. What I do can change from day to day, but in general I give massages, hugs, and other forms of comfort care. I listen and talk with the residents to help them solve problems and we listen to each other the tell stories of our lives. This is a favorite activity of the residents, so it is a good thing I have had an eventful life and can tell eventful stories that have happy endings! I love to laugh and I love to have my friends at WSL enjoy laughing too. They seem to enjoy teasing me a bit as well.
One thing I did not expect was the number of people I would develop relationships with. The area I work in serves people who are unable to care for themselves. They need nursing care. WSL provides a lot of enrichment activity for the residents, and there is a lot going on all of the time. So in addition to the residents, I am working with the healthcare providers and staff, the chaplin, social services, various departments of the facility, and the resident’s families. It is an amazing experience, which does require patience, creativity, and an open mind and heart. The payback is greater than you can imagine.
As simple as that
When friends and colleagues ask what I do there all I have to say is, “I am going to the nursing home to see my friends, old & new.” It really is as simple as that, because that is the outcome.