Respite volunteers bring joy, relief to lives of older adults with memory loss and caregivers
August 16, 2018
The Gathering participant Kathy Thorson (left) and volunteer Jean Xiong clap hands together as part of an exercise activity at Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville, MN.
By Brandi Jewett
It only takes a few hours a week for volunteers to make a difference in the lives of older adults living with memory loss and their caregivers.
While Lyngblomsten provides many opportunities on its campus for volunteers to make an impact, other programs allow them to serve older adults in the community.
Joy Johnson, a retired pastor, can’t help but smile, laugh, and dance when she visits with older adults through Lyngblomsten’s respite programs.
“It’s a very meaningful way to engage with people one on one,” she said. “We’re truly blessed to be able to spend each day with them.”
Johnson volunteers for 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten’s in-home respite program and The Gathering group respite program. The programs create an engaging experience for an older adult, known as a participant, and provide respite for his or her caregiver.
Respite is a service that allows caregivers to step away from their caregiving duties for a short period of time. This temporary relief helps caregivers reduce stress and improve their overall well-being.
Respite also has a positive impact on program participants. The Gathering offers a day each week of brain-stimulating activities for groups of eight to 10 participants, who are paired one on one with volunteers like Johnson. The in-home respite program allows volunteers to engage one on one with older adults in their homes for a period of two to three hours a week.
“Volunteers think initially that their gift is giving caregivers a break, but then they realize that it’s twofold, that the time spent with the participant is very meaningful and enlightening,” said Jeanne Schuller, In-Home Respite Program Development Coordinator for Lyngblomsten. “They see that people with cognitive decline can still participate in many activities of life.”
The respite volunteering experience has been eye-opening for Jean Xiong, a Century College student studying psychology. Xiong has spent the summer interning with The Gathering site at Centennial United Methodist Church in Roseville.
“I feel like every time I come here, it’s a blessing to see how much joy we bring into their lives,” Xiong said.
The Gathering is offered through 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten in collaborative partnership with more than 20 churches in the east metro area. 2nd Half with Lyngblomsten’s in-home respite program currently is in a pilot phase being tested with a small group of caregivers and participants and is supported by a Live Well at Home grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services and the Lyngblomsten Foundation.
Both respite programs rely heavily on a pool of dedicated volunteers to serve their participants.
“The programs are totally volunteer-dependent—we couldn’t do this without volunteers,” Schuller said.
Volunteers for both programs receive extensive training and access to resources to help them succeed in their roles.
If becoming a respite volunteer sounds interesting to you, contact Lyngblomsten Volunteer Services at (651) 632-5406 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.lyngblomsten.org/individualvolunteer.