Susan C. Haas: Help available for seniors and veterans

I want to talk about some wonderful programs RSVP has to keep seniors in their homes for as long as possible and free from costly institutions which they fear more than death.

One of the most critical needs to help seniors or people with disabilities remain at home are those of caregivers.

Our Respite Program provides time off to family caregivers of elders and care recipients aged 18 and older with a disability. It is alarming to note that the physical and emotional stress that 24/7 caregivers endure results in higher rates of depression, chronic illness and even death. Furthermore, elderly spousal caregivers with a personal history of chronic illness who are experiencing caregiving related stress have a 63 percent higher mortality rate than their non-caregiving peers (Family Caregivers Alliance:, 2016). If the family caregiver dies before the care recipient, in many cases there is no alternative to institutionalization of the loved one being cared for at home.

RSVP volunteers are here to help! Our volunteers receive pre-service and ongoing in-service instruction and training from staff and partner organizations such as Alzheimer’s Association and REST (Respite Education Support Tools).

Volunteers work with families to achieve the highest level of independence and are well prepared to relieve caregivers — a few hours at a time, a couple of days per week, thus prolonging the life of the caregiver and enhancing the lives of the person they care for. Respite also gives the one being cared for a new person to share their thoughts and feelings with and stimulates their minds and bodies letting them know that they are still part of the community and society.

Transportation for essential medical and dental trips for low income seniors and veterans is also a critical need in Nevada. RSVP provides door-to-door escorted transportation services and the emotional reassurance so necessary for homebound elders. This service is for those who may not see well enough to drive themselves anymore or don’t have the needed resources to access the goods and services necessary to maintain their independence. Rides are also provided for shopping, to pick up prescriptions, to attend church and socialization. Veterans can take advantage of our weekly trip to the Reno VA. All veterans are encouraged to call if they need assistance or can volunteer to help other veterans and seniors get to their critical appointments.

RSVP’s Call to Action Campaign is an invitation to serve. We are asking community members to join our efforts and help make a difference, even if it is only for an hour or two per week.

Studies show that caring, kindness and compassion improve health and wellbeing and increase longevity. Some doctors are even giving out volunteering prescriptions to fight depression!

For a full list of volunteer opportunities and programs, or for more information or questions about qualifying for RSVP services, contact Sandy Severance, RSVP program director, at 775-687-4680, ext. 6.

For information, our website at

Susan C. Haas is Executive Director and CEO of the Nevada Rural Counties RSVP Program, Inc.


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