Care facilities put out call for volunteers and staff

By: Brendan Losinski | Metro | Published October 4, 2022

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METRO DETROIT — Many hospice and assisted living facilities are putting out a call for volunteers and staff to help them care for those in need.

Alana Knoppow, the volunteer manager for Hospice of Michigan, as well as Arbor Hospice, said that the volunteer rates have plummeted since the pandemic and have yet to rise again.

“We’re having the same issue everywhere. Since the pandemic, it’s understandable that a lot of the volunteer force didn’t feel comfortable placing shifts in places like hospice or senior care facilities,” Knoppow said. “Visits and volunteers were suspended during the pandemic for a while. Now that the pandemic has receded and safety procedures are in place, we are letting people back in, but some people haven’t come back due to safety reasons or because they have just moved on in the meantime. We need to replenish our roster.”

Knoppow went on to say that such volunteers are crucial in the lives of those being cared for.

“Our patients are at such a sensitive time in their life where they might not be receiving a lot of visitors,” she said. “Our volunteers can come in and help alleviate some concerns and enrich the quality of life of patients who don’t get much companionship or company. Right now, I have a waiting list of patients who are hoping for a volunteer. Sometimes, it’s a matter of not having enough volunteers in a particular area.”

Natalie Amcheslavsky-Reisin is the former owner of The Gardens Assisted Living Facility in Clinton Township, which offered 24-hour care for adults. She said she was forced to close the facility due to a lack of staff.

“It just became exhausting,” she said. “COVID continued to keep going around. The girls there were still afraid to work with COVID. No one wanted to work, so we would run ads to replace people, and no one would show up for interviews. A lot of people thought they could make more money working at a McDonald’s or something.”

She added that fear of COVID combined with rising costs means that care facilities are being stretched thinner and thinner.

“There weren’t issues before COVID. People could meet the threshold of care. Then, prices went up for gas, food, utilities and we were getting less money than ever,” Amcheslavsky-Reisin said. “COVID frightened a lot of people from the caregiver industry.”

Knoppow said that facilities such as hers are looking for anyone with some time to spare.

“Responsibilities would all be some form of companionship,” she explained. “This means sitting and reading to them, helping bring music into their lives, helping them record information like their life stories for their families and loved ones. Sometimes, it’s just sitting with them in their final moments, if they don’t have any loved ones to be with them.”

Knoppow said those interested in a job in the field can likely find one very easily, and those who wish to volunteer can do so in a number of ways.

“Most of our care is actually home care. We go wherever the patient lives, whether it’s their home or a senior living home,” she said. “We’re also looking for volunteers (such) as stylists and licensed hairdressers who can come to patients’ homes and cut their hair. … If someone is not sure if it is right for them, they can reach out to me for more information or to just have a conversation to learn more about it.”

Those at hospice and senior care facilities hope members of the public will hear their pleas for aid and respond.

“Our volunteers have told me that they get more than they give,” remarked Knoppow. “They find such meaning in this work that they didn’t necessarily anticipate getting. You don’t have to have any kind of experience in this field, just the availability to visit once a week or once a month and your own transportation.”