MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Fort Gibson

May 1, 2013

Volunteer caregiver support program looking for volunteers

Once a week, Carol Iriart-Rose travels to Haskell from her home in Fort Gibson to donate her time as a volunteer caregiver for World War II veteran Hilliard Tucker, who served in the 101st Airborne and fought in the Battle of the Bulge.

For approximately four hours, Iriart-Rose visits with Tucker which gives his wife Mary and daughter Sharon Smith, the primary caregivers, the opportunity to run errands in town and buy groceries.

“Mainly, I’m just here to sit with him to give them some respite time,” said Iriart-Rose. “When he talks, I listen, and when he laughs, I laugh.”

Even though Tucker is deaf and rarely speaks, Iriart-Rose said he knows she is there next to him.

“Since he can’t hear me, it’s hard to have conversations,” she said. “It took a little while, but I know he knows me, and there are some days he says some words you can understand. I always go over and pat him on the hand when I get here and pat him on the hand when I leave. (One time) when Sharon and her mom came home, I patted him on the hand, he said, ‘not yet.’”

Iriart-Rose is the first volunteer caregiver in the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center’s (JCMVAMC) new Volunteer Caregiver Support Program.

The program is designed to provide caregivers with a brief respite once a week while also providing companionship and compassionate support. The program’s ultimate goal is to provide veterans with a high quality of life by allowing them to stay at home with their family as long as possible.

“More than half of caregivers report medium to high stress levels due to fulfilling all of the demands of being a caregiver – which can be a full time job,” said Kellen Palmer, the Volunteer Caregiver Support Program Coordinator. “The program gives them a much needed break and provides the opportunity for the veteran to have a friendly visitor and more socialization.”

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