Applauding our support group volunteers this National Volunteer Week

During National Volunteer Week we are showcasing stories shared by volunteers and Society staff about how volunteers have made a difference for people living with dementia.

Support group volunteers help create safe and open spaces for people living with early-stage dementia or care partners to share their concerns and solutions. As many volunteers have personal experience of dementia themselves, the groups are a place where deep relationships and invaluable support networks are forged.

Marg Monro, pictured receiving the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2018.
Marg Monro, pictured receiving the Governor General’s Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2018.

Marg Monro is one of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s longest-serving volunteers and founder of Salt Spring Island’s Caregiver Support Group. She says: “My mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease shortly after her retirement and there was no support available in the rural area. I felt I could not let anyone go down that same lonely road of caregiving, as my Dad did, without some kind of support. I had to check my original file to get the date right, but there was the letter, handwritten, from the Alzheimer Society of BC, dated December 9, 1991, thanking me for my interest in starting a support group on Salt Spring Island!”

Almost thirty years later, the group continues to meet every week. Marg highlights the importance of the group for the local community, “As we are in a rural area, you recognize the group supporting friends, neighbours and folks as members of your community. There is a real sense of belonging.”

Deanna Matthewson (right), pictured at an information booth at the Kelowna Farmers Market.
Deanna Matthewson (right), pictured at an information booth at the Kelowna Farmer's Market.

Deanna Matthewson, who has been a Society volunteer since 2013, says: “I could see the need for support for families from both my own experience and from the experiences of the families I worked with professionally, which is why I volunteered to facilitate a caregiver support group.” She says, “A new member recently joined our group. His wife had moved into long-term care the week before. He had been advised by the staff at the care home to not visit her for the first couple of weeks. One of the other the support group members had his wife in the same home and recognized the name. He was able to report that the wife was doing well and making friends with the other residents. It was a great comfort to our new member.” 

Another volunteer shared, “One of my caregivers in our support group was feeling sad and stressed because her elderly mother needed to move into long-term care. She worried her mother would feel abandoned and lonely. Recently when the daughter arrived at the care home, she found her mom propelling herself down a hallway in her wheelchair with a piece of cake in hand and a big smile on her face. The daughter said, ‘Hi, you look like you're having fun!’ Her 96-year-old mother replied enthusiastically, ‘I am. I really am!’ Such a sweet story reminds us that life in care can be enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Every day during National Volunteer Week, we will share our volunteer’s favourite moments, experiences and memories. Keep visiting our website or follow us this week on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to read more and share your own experiences! #NVW2020 #CheersToVolunteers 

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Last Updated: 04/21/2020