Senior Companion Program provides friends for the isolated

Every week, Kay Roper spends time with six elderly friends. She takes them to the grocery store, doctor appointments and to musical events at the Tabernacle.She also spends time just listening to what these friends have to say. Eva, who is almost 91 year old, is one such older friend that Roper visits.”She loves me and I love her,” Roper said.Roper visits these elderly friends through the Senior Companion Program at the Bear River Association of Governments Area Agency on Aging (BRAG). Companions must be 55 years old or older, have limited income and be able to work at least fifteen hours a week.Debra Smith, Senior Companion director, said the program currently has 22 volunteers between Cache, Box Elder and Rich counties.”They’re incredible,” Smith said of the volunteers. “They’re really something.”These volunteers see about 90-110 elderly people who need visits, called clients, per month. The volunteers are paid a small stipend and a little gas reimbursement.The ultimate goal of the program is to keep people living in their own homes, independent and out of rest homes longer. It also provides these older clients with a friend close to their own age and a way out of the isolation.Smith said, “They (the volunteer and client) can talk about their grand kids together. It’s a very kind thing to do.”The program doesn’t only help older members of the community. Smith said her volunteers once provided care to a 40-year-old paraplegic. A volunteer took him to get an ice cream shake every week. The program also provides respite care for caregivers.Each volunteer goes through 40 hours of initial training, background checks and monthly training meetings to make sure they know how to handle situations.Volunteers are required to spend 15 hours a week on visits and can serve up to 40 hours. They set their own schedules with their clients.Smith said she tries to match up the personalities of the volunteers with those of the clients and has a 92 percent rate where the pair hit it off.”When I go to bed at night, I really feel like I have added a tiny bit to these guys’ lives,” Smith said.The service is free to clients, but there is a short waiting list. Those interested in using the service or becoming a volunteer can contact Smith at 713-1467. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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