Program lends friendly ear to lonely aged care residents
ONCE a fortnight, as per his diary, Hess Strengers visits George in his high-care unit.
It's not an arduous task. George is knowledgeable and articulate, yet a series of life changes has left him bedridden and isolated.
Hess visits George as part of the Community Visitors Scheme, which supports isolated residents in government- subsidised aged care.
The program aims to enrich the quality of life of residents who would benefit from a friendly visit.
Hess sits with George for an hour.
"George just likes to talk and needs someone to listen. He's from the Eastern Bloc, was brought up under communist rule," Hess said.
"He's knowledgeable on geography and history - not too many people are prepared to listen to that.
"I'm a good listener. It's getting to the point where we have a little bit of conversation."
Hess believes his visits are important for George.
"If they have no family or friends, the only people around are staff from the institution.
"Their need is people contact, and being able to talk without restriction about the past and review their own life."
What does Hess get out of it? "We are all driven by different needs. Mother Theresa got her buzz out of helping others.
"I'm no Mother Theresa, but there is a satisfaction in seeing George. The relationship is moving on - there is a connection," he said.
"I enjoy it because I know increasingly the joy it brings to George. It's an exercise where you consider bringing joy to others, not yourself.
"It's such a small thing but so important to that person. There are a lot of lonely people out there."
Hess is also aware it could just as easily be him in George's shoes.
"But for the grace of God..." he said.
COMMUNITY VISITORS SCHEME
The Community Visitors Scheme run through the Northern Rivers Community Gateway establishes links between people living in aged care homes and hostels and their local community by recruiting volunteer visitors.
Community visitors are required to commit to visiting their resident friend at least once a fortnight, usually for 1 or 1.5 hours per visit.
Visits could be spent doing something that you both enjoy - reading, listening to music, chatting or watching a favourite TV program, maybe a short walk outside. Activities depend on the health of the resident. Sharing your time and interests with a resident will help them to feel better about themselves and increase feelings of independence.
To volunteer contact: Northern Rivers Community Gateway on 6621 7397.
CVS is a federal government initiative and has been running in Lismore for over 20 years.