HELP LINE: Volunteering can be the best ‘bad time’ ever

I THINK MOST of us are familiar, directly or indirectly, with the phrase, “For a good time, call …”

But how about “For a bad time, call …”

And, yes, I am serious.

Look: If you ask most of us who are old enough to have figured out that we’re probably not going to live forever what scares us the most, you’ll get a more-or-less predictable litany of responses — Alzheimer’s, the kids moving back in, Medicare Part D “open enrollment,” the sudden realization that she or he was right when they said, “I told you to go before we left …” etc. — but in there, somewhere, you’re probably going to hear something like, “Being put in a nursing home.”

We probably mean any “residential facility,” but what comes out is “nursing home.”

We see it as a sentence to the ninth level of hell, for eternity, totally alone, forgotten.

Disposed of.

Now, the fact is that, statistically, most of us will never reside in a facility for more than a week or two for rehab.

Another fact is that, mercifully, most of our facilities around here are really pretty good, most of the time.

But that doesn’t matter because we’re already scared and facts don’t always take fear away.

And, of course, some of us do end up there, usually because there’s no other place we can be.

But, what if there were folks who spent some of their time being with you in that facility?

Being on your side?

Taking your side?

Or just spending some time with you without messing with your body or telling you what you “need” to do?

What if that?

Well, there are people who do that, and there have been, for a quite a while.

They are the good folks who volunteer for the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, going into facilities all over the Peninsula to be on your side — their side — our side.

These are good and decent people who have had to apply for the program, have their backgrounds checked, go through several days of serious training, do monthly reports, go to monthly meetings, don’t get paid and proceed to give away significant chunks of their lives for you — her — me.

Sound fun?

I didn’t think so.

So, for a bad time, call Caroline Wise at 360-417-8556 or 800-801-0070, and tell her that human beings matter enough to you that you’re willing to be a human being.

Wise runs this ombudsman program in Jefferson and Clallam counties, and is looking for some more help to help ensure that a lot of those things that a lot of us are afraid of don’t happen.

If you take a minute to visualize being in a facility — because you have to be and something is “wrong” — it won’t take long for you to figure out that it could get pretty scary pretty quick, whether the facility or the staff deserve it.

And if you can keep your eyes closed for another minute, and visualize yourself walking into that room and being with that person for no reason other than to say “Hello,” solve a problem, advocate or “be on their side,” you’ll get the drift.

And you’ll probably be able to figure out what’s in this for you.

If you can’t, you’re probably not who I’m looking for, anyway.

So, yes: I’m asking you to call Wise before the next training starts April 1 (and, no, this is not an April Fools joke), fill out paperwork, get interviewed, have your background checked and go through some pretty serious training.

Then, give away a piece of your life on a regular basis and get absolutely nothing back for it, except what you visualize when you say to yourself, “There, but for the grace of God …”

Don’t think about this long enough to talk yourself out of it.

Of course you don’t have time …

You also don’t have time not to.

It’s the best “bad time” you’ll ever have.


Mark Harvey is director of Clallam/Jefferson Senior Information & Assistance, which operates through the Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He is also a member of the Community Advocates for Rural Elders partnership. He can be reached at 360-452-3221 (Port Angeles-Sequim), 360-385-2552 (Jefferson County) or 360-374-9496 (West End), or by emailing [email protected].

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