Nonprofit organization Full Life Care strives to support isolated seniors and caregivers through community efforts, especially during the holiday season.
Through Full Life Care’s ElderFriends Volunteer Companionship Program and Care Teams program, new and returning volunteers delivered 85 meals on Thanksgiving to seniors and caregivers from Shoreline to South King County.
“It’s a friendly delivery of a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, along with some seasonal decorations and greetings and treats,” said Ginger Seybold, the director of volunteer programs. “The meal delivery is offered to those who would otherwise be alone for the holiday.”
Several organizations and community groups contributed to the Thanksgiving meals. Operation Sack Lunch prepared the holiday meal, Bertschi School first-graders made the turkey centerpieces, Ballard Blossom added roses, harvest treat bags were provided by The Swartz Family, and decorative table settings came from a local sorority.
The ElderFriends program matches a senior with a volunteer, offering a one-on-one friendly companionship in hopes of helping isolated seniors.
“Some of the simple pleasures in life are just as important to our health and well-being as regular medical care,” Seybold said. “I think that these interpersonal connections can really lift someone’s spirit. It can feel very lonely and isolating to live on your own and not have family nearby.”
The program’s core service is building friendships between a volunteer and senior, with visits two to three times a month — remotely or in person. The program’s core service is intertwined with monthly hand-crafted cards of encouragement, annual social gatherings and the Thanksgiving meal delivery.
“We’ve heard some participants, to get our monthly letter — that always has a card from a volunteer inside — or to receive a friendly phone call and to have someone come by on Thanksgiving Day or just in general, that can really make them feel…that connection,” Seybold said. “It might seem like a small thing, but the opportunity to talk to someone to know that someone is out there thinking about them and sending them care, and support can make a big difference.”
Seybold said her colleague, who does the matching of volunteers and seniors, has often found a change in a senior’s tone after they connect with a volunteer.
“When she’s talking to them for the first time to do their intake, some elders might sound very hesitant or withdrawn in their speech,” she said. “But after connecting with one of our volunteers regularly, she can frequently note that they get a little bit more animated on the phone.”
While the ElderFriends program has been serving the community and providing Thanksgiving meals for 28 years, this was be the second year Care Teams participated.
The Care Teams program is a small group of two to four volunteers per family who provide social, emotional and practical support for unpaid family caregivers to alleviate the stress that can come with caregiving, Seybold said.
Volunteers often lend a helping hand or provide a social companion. Volunteers can also ensure caregivers continue to participate in their favorite activities or events by filling in.
According to the website, these established support systems can improve the quality of life for both the caregiver and care receiver.
Although the principal purpose of these programs is to support seniors and caregivers, many volunteers also benefit from both programs.
“A lot of times volunteers are joining because maybe they have moved far away from their own extended family or they feel like there’s something to gain from learning from the stories and the knowledge of older adults,” Seybold said.
According to a Fair Life Care 2022 report, with the collaboration of both programs, the nonprofit saw a 15% increase in Thanksgiving deliveries to ElderFriends and Care Teams participants.
Seybold said although they reached their limit in Thanksgiving meal volunteers, she expressed a need for volunteers in South King County, especially helping caregivers.
“We have a lot of interest out in like Kent, Renton and Federal Way kind of area on the caregiver side,” she said. “We’re making strides, but we’re always looking for more local volunteers.”