Why I Volunteer: Meet Frances Lister
Frances Lister knew very little about dementia before volunteering with the Alzheimer Society of Oxford, other than she saw the toll the disease was taking on her friends whose spouses were suffering with its effects.
She said her friends were exhausted and had difficulty making times for themselves.
“The grief of losing somebody before you lose someone was just so hard on them,” said Frances.
When Frances saw a poster promoting the Alzheimer Society of Oxford Volunteer Companion Program, she decided that was something she could do to help others who were struggling like her friends.
Frances contacted the Alzheimer Society and was soon set up in the training program that helps volunteer companions gain a solid understanding of what they might expect during their regular visits with their match. She said the training was very comprehensive and covered everything from the basics through to any number of different situations that might occur and how to handle them.
“They were trying to make all of us feel more comfortable with it,” said Frances.
It worked for her.
“I had no experience with the disease before, and I was apprehensive about it at first.”
With the knowledge that the Alzheimer Society fully supports its volunteers with ongoing education and activity ideas, Frances began to feel more confident that she could make a beneficial contribution.
Now she’s very comfortable in her role and has been with her match for more than a year.
The duo spend their weekly visits going for walks or drives depending on weather, listen to music, or simply sit and chat over coffee. It all depends on what her match is interested in doing on any given day.
Frances realizes that she is helping to provide a respite for everyone involved in caring for her match. The caregiver has a couple of hours to spend on their own while her match gets a change of scenery and activity.
She has also found that volunteering as a companion has been a satisfying experience for herself.
“I gain more of an understanding of the disease and the toll it takes,” she said, “And I really get a feeling that I’m helping out.”
Knowing that there is a wait list for volunteer companions, Frances encourages anyone who can give a couple hours of their time each week to step up and inquire about being a volunteer. The socialization offered through the Volunteer Companion program helps individuals with dementia to stay at home longer. Volunteers also provide social and recreation time for the person with dementia, and the respite time for the care partner.