by Carol Dexter, RN, BSN, MPH, integrative health volunteer at Woodbury Senior Living
Creative in My Work
Hi, I am Carol and I have lived a very eventful life up until the time I decided to retire. I grew up in a moderate sized town with four other siblings and lots of cousins and friends. My grandparents passed away before I was old enough to really know them. I worked my way through college and became a rehabilitation nurse. It was there I met the first elderly folks I got to know. Each and every one of them was disabled and needed very personal care. I loved some of them and disliked some of them, but did my best by all of them; and I rejoiced or grieved with them and their families.
My career and education continued to proceed with advanced education and a move into management. I had many wonderful opportunities to be very creative in my work. When I lost my job in a lay-off, I looked but did not find a job that would allow me to use my talents and treat people well. I retired, but then found that even with all the time in the world I was still not motivated to fix all of the broken things around our house. So I decided to volunteer.
I Get to Be Me
I had volunteered in the past, and had good experiences and not so good experiences. Now I sought a volunteer role that would allow me to bring my talents and experiences to the table, but would also create a learning and growth environment for me. I was lucky to stumble across VolunteerMatch at https://www.volunteermatch.org/. VolunteerMatch allows the volunteer to select various skills and interests. This site found Woodbury Senior Living Integrative Health & Wellness Department. The volunteer position description was for someone to provide friendship and gentle massage to residents. The described position was strongly consistent with my beliefs (and research) that interpersonal contact and touch is critically important to the well-being of seniors and everybody else as well. I was pleased when I was accepted to the role even though I felt some trepidation regarding the commitment I was making.
The most wonderful part of this volunteer job is that I get to be me. There is a bit of adjustment for each resident’s needs and personality but I can interact with the resident as a friend/problem solver/service provider/confident, or whatever is needed at the moment, and I can use my career skills as an RN and manager to identify issues to pass along to my supervisor or the floor care staff, and in some cases I can solve the issue right then and there.
My past experience with seniors as a registered nurse was cognitively helpful to me, but the real deal with this volunteer job is to help the residents (my peeps) feel loved as individuals; and all that requires is giving love. It is easy and fun. I provide a positive response to the individual, including laughter, touch, and if no massage is requested I hold hands and give hugs. I listen to repetitive life stories and ask questions. I share my life with them, too. This two way interaction is what makes me their “friend indeed” instead of a service provider.
I know that I will lose some of these new friends and I worry about what will happen when my life comes to its next eventful change and “my peeps” will lose their friend.