MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

September 15, 2012

New VA center volunteer program provides a helping hand

— Carol Rose of Wagoner knows exactly how it feels to be a full-time caregiver to a homebound loved one.

She took care of her husband during a lengthy illness and knows what a relief it is to have a short break, to take a nap, do a little shopping or have lunch with friends.

And that is why Rose, a military veteran whose son also is a veteran, is joining a new volunteer program at Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

The Voluntary Service Caregiver Support Program is seeking volunteers in the local community such as Rose, who would like to become a volunteer caregiver, said Kellen Palmer, voluntary service caregiver support coordinator.

“A lot of times the patient that requires hospice or respite care, they just need someone different to talk to — that understands what’s happening,” said Rose, who has signed up to volunteer. “Someone to just sit there with them, read to them, provide some sort of comfort in knowing that there’s someone else who cares.”

The new program will require volunteers to visit a homebound veteran once or twice a week for a few hours, allowing the veteran’s primary caregiver to take time off to complete necessary errands or just enjoy a period of rest and relaxation, Palmer said.

Volunteers may read to the veteran, chat, do arts and crafts, play card games, listen to music or other activities depending on the veteran’s condition, he said.

The program has been around a few years. Muskogee’s VA Medical Center is the 13th area to pick up the program in the nation.

“I’ve been to a few sites to learn about their programs and they are pretty successful so far,” Palmer said.

Volunteers will be required to go through three or four hours of training.

Palmer said he can do training somewhere other than the hospital if large groups are interested.

“We’re looking for all kinds of volunteers, as long as they are 18 and over,” Palmer said. “They’ll have to go through a background check and our training.”

People who already have volunteered within the VA system will have less training to complete.

Palmer hopes to get volunteers matched up with caregivers and veterans soon.

“Once they’ve done the training, it’s just dependent on the caregiver, the veteran and the volunteer on what they can work out,” Palmer said. “However, we’re asking for no more than four hours a day, but it’s really just what works for the parties involved.”

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton

@muskogeephoenix.com.

You can help

WHAT: Voluntary Service Caregiver Support Program through Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center.

WHEN: Varies, depending on caregivers and veterans and their needs.

WHERE: Training will be held at the VA Medical Center, volunteers will visit homebound veterans.

INFO: Kellen Palmer, (918) 577-3236 or Kellen.Palmer@va.gov.

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