My name is Megan and I am a 32 year old mother of two gorgeous girls (one who turns 3 in June and my youngest who just turned 1). From a young age I was always interested in helping others and was often involved in programs in school helping other students learn to read.
When I left school I knew I wanted to work in a profession where I could help others, hence why I now work as a school psychologist in South-western Sydney.
Growing up I didn’t get a chance to meet my grandparents and felt like I was missing out when I would see my friends and their close bond with their grandparents. I am not sure why I started to feel a desire to volunteer with the elderly but I have always had a soft spot for them.
Perhaps because I feel they are such valuable members of our society who have lived such interesting lives that I am just simply interested in providing companionship to a group of people who I admire and respect.
During my maternity leave I would regularly visit our local shopping centre for a coffee and more often than not an elderly person would stop by and talk to me about my baby. They would then tell me about their families and we would have a general chat.
They would then walk off by themselves and I would spend the day wondering if I was the only person they had spoken to for that day. It had such a significant impact on me that I couldn’t help but wonder who those in nursing homes would get to talk to except for the amazing staff that work there.
If the residents didn’t have any family nearby, who would drop by to just say hello or stop by to hear one of their amazing stories?
It was then I wanted to use some of my spare time to volunteer in nursing homes and simply visit a few people, sit down and chat about whatever it was that they wanted. To simply provide a friendly face. To show them that although their family may not be around, someone cares enough to visit them and spend their time in their company.
I am even happy to play card games, relive their youth and colour in, go for a walk around the nursing home, sit outside in the sun and simply feel loved. How hard could this be?
I thought I could simply just contact a few nursing homes in my area and say “hey, I have nothing to do 2 days a week, I would love to come and visit the residents and just provide them with some company for a few hours a day.
I have 2 daughters that would also love to come (if permitted) and what’s even better, is that I am a psychologist!” I was expecting my phone to be ringing off the hook.
I didn’t hear back from one nursing home.
One agency did email me back however they diverted me to their employment page. I was confused! Did they not understand what I actually meant? I had no plans on providing a psychological service so that couldn’t have been the issue. I was dumbfounded!
I know that each day there are elderly residents sitting in their rooms, feeling lonely, missing family, depressed and here I am (along with many others I assume) who are willing to provide simple companionship.
There were days when I use to drive home from work and I would drive pass a nursing home.
Each day an elderly man would sit out the front and wave to the cars. How heartbreaking, that he may have been that lonely that he thought he would sit and watch the cars go by and hope someone acknowledged him.
I thought to myself “I’ll stop and chat to him one day” and then he was gone. I still look for him every time I drive pass but he never returned.
I really hope that in the near future a companionship type program could become available and easily accessible to members of the community to become involved in nursing homes.
I will always be interested in volunteering with the elderly and I hope it starts to become an easier process.