With weekly telephone calls replacing face-to-face visits to Italians in residential aged care facilities, Co.As.It. Community Volunteer Service Co-ordinators, Sarina Campbell and Luisa Ruggiero-Foote decided to round up a few local children to remind the 20+ Italian residents at Regis Aged Care Lutwyche, that they hadn’t been forgotten. Luisa and Sarina enlisted the help of 6-year-old Amira to deliver a load of brightly coloured posters to Debra Dorgan, Lifestyle Co-ordinator at Regis, to brighten the residents’ rooms.
The restrictions CVS is facing of social distancing and isolation especially for the elderly are in direct contrast to the intentions of the CVS program, which are building connections and companionship (a special friend) through regular physical visits by matching a volunteer with a client/resident.
Home care package client Joe who lives alone enjoys his visits from his CVS visitor Perry. Joe’s face usually lights up when Perry arrives at his home. Over a cup of coffee that Joe proudly prepares by setting the table with a table cloth and good china, he reminisces and recounts the stories of this family immigrating from Italy in the early 1930s and becoming a pioneer cane cutting family in north Queensland for many years. Joe delights in sharing his many stories and achievements from throughout his life. He also likes to share poems that have inspired him during his life.
Since COVID-19, speaking over the phone with the CVS coordinator Joe said he is alone with his cup of coffee and Rosary beads and that’s how he spends his days. Perry has now transitioned to recreating and continuing his visits through a regular phone call with Joe to assist him to stay connected and offer any social support he may need.
Normally new volunteers and clients are matched through a physical meet and greet visit with the CVS coordinator but due to protecting the health of our elderly community at this time, this process is not possible. With the coordinator’s encouragement and assistance, new volunteers have been initiating the first contact with their new client/resident by phone on their own. This is a new territory for the program’s coordinators and volunteers. In essence, they are the trailblazers that will go down in history for adapting, trialing and implement a new way of achieving the goal of how can we keep helping the vulnerable in our communities keep connected. Our goal is to support well being.
Below is an extract from an email received from the first new volunteer who introduced herself to her new client via telephone after receiving coaching from the client’s carer regarding her background and interests so that the volunteer had a brief knowledge of the client’s past life experiences.
“The phone call with Cora went really well! It was very easy to talk to each other and she’s a very funny, talkative lady. Without knowing it, you matched us perfectly as we have a lot in common and share very similar interests. She was very grateful and we both decided we will continue to talk on the phone until we can finally meet :)”