Working with seniors as one of the South Cariboo’s Better at Home volunteers is good for the soul.
That’s been the experience of Kelly Mayeiniuk and Judy Mitchell since they both started volunteering with the newly formed seniors support group this year. While their primary goal is to assist seniors in their day-to-day lives, the thanks they receive for doing it is extremely gratifying.
“The appreciation I receive from them is so humbling and it feels so good to help out. I feel like I’m making a difference and that is priceless,” Mitchell, 65, said. “I’m getting so much out of it because I do things for them and they just value it so greatly. The more I do for others the better I feel, really.”
As a former wellness facilitator, Mitchell knows how important social interaction is for people, especially as we age. When she first moved to the area full-time during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic she said the social isolation was especially hard on her.
Mitchell was left depressed by her isolation, which she said didn’t truly lift until she saw an ad for Better at Home last March. She signed up to volunteer and said the experience has helped revitalize her.
“With the isolation of COVID, I really acutely felt the loneliness and lack of social contact. I had planned to do some volunteering but that was put to the side,” Mitchell said. “With my current clients, I can really identify with that feeling of isolation, due to their lack of mobility.”
Every week Mitchell helps out her three clients with cleaning, grocery shopping and other errands like doctor’s appointments. Her clients are all women, two in their 80s and one in her 60s, and Mitchell said they’ve become fast friends.
The same thing has happened with Mayeiniuk and her client Marlene Mackie-Rozendal. The two have an easy and lively repertoire and Mayeiniuk considers herself to be Mackie-Rozendal’s chauffeur and companion more than anything else.
“It’s very rewarding (to form a connection with her). I love all of this lady’s stories and hearing about her family and things that make her happy or sad,” Mayeiniuk said. “It’s really hard not to become a friend, but when you share things about your lives you just become one. It’s very rewarding.”
Mackie-Rozendal said she’s a people person who enjoys maintaining her independence as much as possible. Over the last two months, she’s come to look forward to Mayeiniuk’s visits.
“You get to come into town and do the things you need to and have fun,” Mackie-Rozendal, 75, said. “(Kelly and I) were suited for each other. She’s got a sense of humour just like me so we get along really well. She does her thing and I do mine.”
A care aid by trade, Mayeiniuk lives on a ranch near 70 Mile House. As an empty nester, she said she became a Better at Home volunteer to give back to the community and provide seniors like Mackie-Rozendal the care and respect they deserve.
Keeping seniors in their own homes and out of facilities is important, Mayeiniuk said, especially because of her experiences working at senior homes in Chilliwack. When a single worker has up to 30 residents to care for they don’t have time to offer them the proper attention they deserve, she said.
“I’ve worked in many facilities and some are great but some are not good at all. It’s nice to be able to help people stay at home as long as possible,” Mayeiniuk said. “Seniors have worked their whole lives and they deserve to do what they want and for us to be there to help.”
Better at Home’s coordinator Cindy Faulkner said that the work volunteers like Mitchell and Mayeiniuk do is in high demand. Three are new clients every day seeking assistance for grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments or even just friendly visits.
“What I am finding is that even the staff that come on as paid workers inevitably become volunteers as well,” Faulkner observed. “It is inevitable that we form trusting, caring, and professional bonds with our clients.”
As more seniors start to age, Mayeiniuk said there will be an increasing demand for these services.
“(Staying at home) gives them a stronger sense of self and is good for their mental wellbeing,” Mitchell said.
Faulkner said the best thing volunteers and the community can do for elders is to simply listen when they share concerns. Solutions can be as simple as asking pharmacy workers to blister pack medications so seniors remember to take them.
She said 100 Mile House is a wonderful community that embodies the culture of Better at Home, which is “community supporting community.” She encourages anyone interested in becoming a volunteer to reach out at email@example.com.
For her part, Mackie-Rozendal encourages seniors like her to reach out and get the help they need.
“Lose your pride and just go for it,” Mackie-Rozendal. “You want to do everything on your own but there comes a time when you have to ask for help.”