For RSVP volunteers, a two-way street
At the Retired Senior Volunteer Program offices on Northgate in Carson City, only a few workers are in evidence. That’s because most of the volunteers are out doing their jobs as transport drivers and Respite caregivers. They’re out driving on the streets or sitting with those stricken by dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, giving 24-hour-a-day caretakers a respite from their wearisome duties – duties assumed cheerfully, but even the best need time to shop, to visit, see a doctor.
That’s the giving side of RSVP work for volunteers. They give their time and skills to helping those who cannot be left alone without supervision. They learn a lot in the process, enabling them to step up when personal help is needed for family or loved ones.
Then there’s the other side of it, such the quarterly respite training sessions that were held recently at the RSVP for volunteers in the Carson City area as well as for RSVP offices throughout the state.
This is when the “worker bees” learn about more than just driving or sitting with a client. It’s when the bees learn about such issues as cancer care and treatment and the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s.
Some 30 volunteers attended the training session here, plus others in Fallon, Winnemucca and Elko, the last three via closed-circuit TV.
Susan Haas, RSVP program director, opened the meeting and introduced speaker Patrick Williams, patient navigator volunteer of Carson Tahoe Regional Medical Center. He discussed at length the four types of cancer prevention and early detection, as well as how caregivers can best care for those recovering from treatment.
He pointed out that skin cancers are largely the result of overexposure to the sun or tanning beds – “not a good thing to use.”
Mylan Hawkins, state executive director of the Nevada Diabetes Association, spoke on the relationship between diabetes and Alzheimer’s, which is significant.
“Statistics show there is significant connection between the two illnesses. Diabetes sufferers are much more likely to suffer eventually from Alzheimer’s,” he said. He also addressed the connection between dementia and depression: “Both are rising in the United States,” he said. He pointed out what to look for among those suffering depression as they edge into Alzheimer’s.
After a lunch break, Jack Bibeau of the Northern Nevada Chapter of the American Red Cross appeared with a plastic torso of a man. His subject was citizen CPR.
“No matter how unskilled one is, any CPR is better than none,” he said.
He outlined the moves a citizen CPR responder should make:
1. Check the area for dangers, such as a fallen electrical wire. Assess the victim with a tap on the shoulder and by asking, “Are you OK?” Call 911 if no reply.
2. Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person’s chest. Place the heel of the other hand on top of the first, lacing fingers together.
3. With arms straight, place your shoulders directly over your hands.
4. Push down hard and fast. Compress the chest at least 3 inches; compress 100 times per minute. Let the chest rise before pressing down again. Keep it up. Do not stop until you see an obvious sign of life, such as unassisted breathing, or until a trained responder takes over, or you are too tired to continue or the scene becomes dangerous.
Volunteers were offered the chance to practice on the Red Cross dummy.
At the end of the training session, many of us felt empowered and enriched.
Still, I continue to wonder about my one respite client who starts talking and reliving his life the moment we sit down. Should I question him, not interrupt? Maybe next training session.