Sylvia and Saralyn are two of the wonderful volunteers who frequent the Atlanta regional office. They almost always volunteer together and if you didn’t know any better, you’d think that they were lifelong friends! Sylvia and Saralyn actually met at an Alzheimer’s Association Caregiver Education Class several years ago. The women bonded as former caregivers to their husbands who both died of Alzheimer’s Disease. Sylvia has been volunteering at the Association since 2008 and Saralyn since 2006!
I asked Sylvia and Saralyn how their own caregiving experiences have impacted their lives. Both women said that one thing that happens now, is that they meet other caregivers all the time. During our interview Sylvia said “Just last week, I met with three other caregivers…it seems like every time you turn around there is someone else with dementia – it just blows my mind; it’s an epidemic.” Saralyn too, has been a support to other caregivers, sometimes those she already knows and sometimes complete strangers; “When I was a caregiver I sometimes had strangers approach me in restaurants or public places and tell me that they knew what I was going through. Now I return the favor, when it is appropriate to do so.” She describes how one time she saw a woman in a restaurant with her husband she just instinctively knew what was going on – she stepped out of her comfort zone and offered a word of support and ended up sitting with her for almost an hour, providing a listening ear and comfort to someone who desperately needed it. Both women have found that the need to talk about caregiving experiences – either in a support group, or one-on-one – is a very important part of the caregiving journey. In fact, when I asked for advice that they might give to people who want to help a caregiver, both women agreed that being a good listener and offering emotional support was one of the greatest gifts that people can offer to those caring for a loved one.
During our interview, both ladies expressed that they wish they had known about all of the programs and services that the Alzheimer’s Association offers while they were still caregiving. They found out about the Association later, and decided to volunteer both to “give back” and as a way to help spread the word about our services. Both report though that they enjoy coming here to volunteer and that they feel rewarded knowing that their work helps to further the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sylvia states “You’re never the same after you experience this, that’s part of the reason we volunteer.”
THANK YOU Sylvia & Saralyn! You bring us joy each week when you come in and you are making a big difference in the lives of so many people!
To find out more about volunteer opportunities at the Alzheimer’s Association, or to get more information on our programs and services, call us at 800-272-3900.