Even with the continuation of COVID-19, the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater St. Louis (VNA) has numerous opportunities for volunteers to get involved and make a difference in the lives of seniors in their St. Louis area community.
“Volunteers are the heart of VNA’s services,” says Sue Risch, VNA’s Volunteer Coordinator. “I think now more than ever, patients and families really need companionship and contact.”
Volunteer opportunities during COVID-19 haven’t varied too significantly from typical roles typically offered by VNA. Willing volunteers are able to go into homes to visit with seniors, albeit with the added precautions of face masks, zero physical contact and social distancing. VNA is also taking the added steps of screening homes before volunteer visits. Frequent training sessions via Zoom help visiting volunteers conduct safe practices as well.
Seniors in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, where visits are still restricted, have not been forgotten by VNA volunteers during COVID. New virtual opportunities enable volunteers to make virtual visits, and several volunteers are connecting to seniors with phone calls and handwritten letters.
“The virtual realm is going to stay with us,” says Sue. “We’re definitely using it more during COVID-19, and I think it’s a great alternative. Of course, volunteers can do it remotely, so it’s convenient for them because it saves time and mileage.”
Some VNA volunteers are using their talents to comfort seniors during COVID months. Women from a volunteer crafting team stepped up right away to offer hand-sewn face masks. The pet therapy team has made videos of their animals that have been forwarded to seniors and their families.
“Our volunteers are awesome,” says Sue. “It amazes me how they’ve stepped up to help out in any area we’ve needed it. They’ve been really committed. We also didn’t lose many volunteers. We had maybe a couple that wanted to be put on hold, but most just asked how they could help.”
VNA is in need of more volunteers, especially those who are willing to provide companionship to seniors and families on a monthly basis as part of VNA’s VIsit-A-Bit program. Sue says it’s important that anyone interested “be able to have the time for it. Although it doesn’t take a lot of time, having the commitment to follow through is important.” One-time or other monthly opportunities with flexible hours are available too.
“I think [our volunteers] see the rewards of their effort and the feedback they get from patients and families, and that means a lot to them. They always tell me they get into volunteering because they want to help, but they usually stay because it helps them. We have a great bunch of volunteers.”