Volunteer Spotlight – Paul

Elaine Whitford Give_Receive_Care

Paul began volunteering at The Center for Volunteer Caregiving in February of 2022. While he grew up in Durham, he spent his entire career as a tax attorney in Washington, D.C. After retirement he relocated back to North Carolina and now lives in Cary. Paul found The Center on the VolunteerMatch website, which lists volunteer opportunities in the Triangle area. For years, he had volunteered at an organization that provided home repair and improvement services to people in Appalachia, and another that provided relief to victims of hurricanes and other natural disasters. Both involved travel and a great deal of physical exertion. He was looking for opportunities to volunteer more frequently and a bit closer to home.

Paul has always found a sense of fulfillment in helping others and, after he retired, had more time for volunteering. He said, “The Center for Volunteer Caregiving is a good fit because its mission resonates with me. Over the years I had observed close friends and relatives confront various infirmities and diseases as they aged and thought about how difficult this must be for those with limited financial resources and who lacked nearby family or a supportive local social network.” Paul volunteers in the caregiver respite program as well as with the much-needed medical and basic needs transportation program.

Paul’s current care receiver is Chuck, a former Aerospace Professor in his mid-60’s who has Alzheimer’s Disease. They grew up listening to the same music and have similar tastes. On some visits Paul will play a few of these songs from Spotify, his iPod or, occasionally, on guitar. He’s found these moments create a special, bonding experience and bring back fun memories from younger years.

In a recent conversation with Chuck’s wife and caregiver, Katie, she spoke emotionally about what a tremendous difference Paul has made in their lives. “Paul has been a great enhancement for our family. He was the first person we brought into our home after Chuck’s diagnosis. His visits give me peace of mind and I trust him completely. He is kind, thoughtful and patient and I cannot think of a better person/volunteer to be in our life. He gives us hope and is a bright light in our week.”

Pauls’ advice for others volunteering in caregiver respite is “[i]f your care receiver has dementia (as, to date, all of mine have), my advice is to be acutely sensitive to their feelings. You may be tempted when having conversations with the spouse or other caregiver about visit scheduling, possible activities, or other matters, to talk only to caregiver on the (very likely false) assumption that the care receiver isn’t interested or doesn’t comprehend. You should resist this impulse and make sure the care receiver always feels included in the discussion. If the conversation is in person, I always address both of them. If texting or calling the caregiver, I ask them to make sure our plan is okay with the care receiver.” For those providing transportation services, his advice is to “prepare, in advance, a polite but firm negative response to a passenger request for a “brief” side trip on the way home from the medical appointment or grocery run that was not approved in advance by The Center. On occasion, I’ve ignored my own advice and then asked Elaine for forgiveness in lieu of permission.”

Paul remains active in his free time and enjoys many hobbies in his retirement. He is a fitness enthusiast. As a member of the Cary YMCA, he can be found there most days doing yoga, Pilates, cardio or strength training classes. He enjoys both road and mountain biking and scuba diving when traveling abroad. Most recently he went to the Outer Hebrides in Scotland on a cycling trip and has been to the Caribbean and Australia to scuba dive. Currently he is taking both guitar and voice lessons (though he is still not ready to go on tour) and enjoys brewing (and drinking!) his own beer. 

Paul reflected, “My work with The Center allows me to have direct contact with the people receiving help—often not the case with other nonprofits—and to get to know them at some level. I feel that they enrich my life and help me appreciate the relationships and other things I sometimes take for granted.”