OPINION: Volunteering benefits more than those you serve

By Danielle Stuart*

Activities are psychologically important for long-term care patients for many reasons. Activities have the ability to prevent social isolation, decrease depression, engage memory, provide purpose, and bring structure to their days. When depression hits residents it often results in a lack of engaging in activities that they enjoy.

By providing activities that long-term care patients find pleasurable we enable an upward spiral out of depression. Most patients flourish when they have a schedule of activities to engage in. Patients who sit in isolation often ruminate on negative thoughts, by providing structure to their schedule we decrease social isolation.

Since residents are often limited to what they can do structured days also allow for constructive activities that fill the gap of their day. Activities also help to foster socializing among peers and provide a sense of purpose and belonging. Overall activities help to increase quality of life among patients.

Volunteering in long term health care facilities is important and provides a unique outlook on life and the role in which you can serve your community. A lot of long term care facilities are on a tight budget between trying to provide quality healthcare, housing, meals, and activities. Volunteers are vital to the functioning of long term facility. Volunteering at a long term care facility provides many benefits. It allows you to gain a new perspective of life, enhances resident’s lives, and also provides an opportunity to increase your resume. Volunteering in a long term care facility is valuable and humbling experience.

Becoming a member of the Alderson Broaddus Honors program gave me the opportunity to engage in a meaningful service project. This summer I volunteered at Pocahontas Center in Marlinton, West Virginia. Pocahontas Center is a long-term health care facility that is home to 68 residents. Patients vary from the elderly, terminally ill, to rehabilitation and dementia patients. I volunteered in the activities department to assist patients with arts and crafts, rehabilitation activities, community outings, and other constructive activities. By completing my service project at a long term care facility I was able to provide purpose to my community and serve a community in need, while also encouraging others to volunteer at a long term care facility.

The main project I was apart of was the August community outing. Having community outings diversifies the activities that are offered to the patients and brings a unique opportunity for the residents to engage off of the campus. The August community outing was a summer picnic at Stillwell Park. We were able to take 12 residents. This was a traditional picnic with hot dogs, hamburgers, and many other side dishes that the staff, family, and friends had came together to make for the residents. When I think of summer nostalgia, memories from childhood picnics, s’mores, and stories come back. Since some of the residents wouldn’t be able to eat a traditional s’more, I decided to make a s’mores pie that all of the residents would be able to enjoy. It was a rainy summer day, but that didn’t get the residents down. They were able to sit under a shelter enjoy fresh air, warm food, and lively conversation cuddled under blankets. To a lot of people a simple picnic would seem small, but to the residents it was a bright moment in what sometimes is a monotonous routine.

*This opinion article fulfills a requirement of the AB honors program and is published as a courtesy of Battler Columns. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Battler Columns.

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