“I’m making a person’s day helping them.”
One reason many of our volunteers choose to work with The Center for Volunteer Caregiving is the opportunity to give back. Caregiver respite volunteer, Cynthia Bridges, is one of these examples. She saw first-hand how important caregiver support is when her mother developed dementia. Cynthia’s mother lived with her until she moved to a skilled nursing facility, where she lived for six years. After she moved to the residential facility, Cynthia visited often. But she also had someone sit with her mom and knows the value and peace of mind this provided her.
After her mother died in 2018 and Cynthia retired from the US Postal Service in 2019, she looked for volunteer opportunities in the community. She first worked with the Salvation Army Angel Tree project sorting presents. After the COVID pandemic began and volunteer opportunities were more limited, she found The Center for Volunteer Caregiving through a google search in the summer of 2020 and has been a busy volunteer ever since.
Cynthia currently has three caregiver respite assignments and has regularly scheduled weekly visits. She started with one family, then started visiting another couple, and has recently added a third family. Cynthia says, “I just enjoy them and they enjoy me.”
“When I sit with Mr. Clay, he has such a gorgeous smile and it brightens up my day. When I visit with Elaine, I try to make her smile and laugh. I love to see them [care receivers] smile and laugh.” Mr. Clay, who has dementia, likes to follow his wife around the house. When Cynthia is with him, he stops following his wife and sits with Cynthia to reminisce. She has seen direct benefits to the caregivers. “At first, Faye didn’t want to go anywhere. She was scared to leave Clay. Now she feels more comfortable to go out and is more relaxed.”
Cynthia suggests to other volunteers, “Make sure you don’t overdo it, that you still have time to work on yourself also.” She does not volunteer after 5:00 pm and gives herself Friday, Saturday and Sundays off. Cynthia understands the importance of taking care of herself. “I have to set my hours so I don’t burn myself out.” When she is not volunteering with The Center, she helps her church, family and friends.
Cynthia reflected on the many rewards of her volunteer experience. “I’m making a person’s day helping them. They tell me they appreciate me coming there. I’m really here for the caregivers. My goal is to make sure that the caregiver is able to do what they need to do. Give them a sense of relief that they are being taken care of.”
Cynthia shares, “Stay persistent to get connected.” Sometimes it may take some extra effort to get connected with a care receiver and/or caregiver. It’s usually does not happen on the first phone call. It took a little while for Faye to be open to having Cynthia. As Cynthia is not a quitter, she kept reaching out and was finally able to schedule a visit. They have developed a strong and trusting relationship over the past 14 months.
When Faye heard that Cynthia was the spotlight volunteer of the month, she called to sing Cynthia’s praises. “Cynthia is a good listener and she has really added to our life. She is outstanding and has helped my family a lot.” Faye spoke of Cynthia helping out in a variety of ways such as taking their garbage can to the curb and back as well as helping the couple get their COVID booster shot. Cynthia has a special relationship with Mr. Clay. They talk, take walks and enjoy their time together.
Cynthia says she wouldn’t change a thing about the families she works with, even though she found out after she started volunteering with one family that they kept snakes on their outside patio. Cynthia admitted that if she’d known this, she might have been too scared to visit. When the family learned of her fear of snakes, they gave them away to make Cynthia feel more comfortable.
Cynthia thanks The Center for Volunteer Caregiving for getting her connected with good matches. She enjoys all three of her families, the care receivers and the caregivers who she also talks with. “We all get along!”