Respite volunteer loves people, enjoys learning from them

By Rebecca A. Doyle

Lois Moses likes people.

Through her work in the admissions office of the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies, she meets lots of people, including international students, and enjoys them all.

But that isn’t enough. Each week, Moses volunteers her time to Respite Volunteers of Washtenaw, through Catholic Social Services.

Respite volunteers act as companions to persons needing assistance so that primary caregivers—usually wives, husbands or children—can have time to themselves for errands or recreation.

Moses spends almost four hours each week now with an Alzheimer’s patient while his wife takes a break.

“I tell her to just go and come back when she’s ready,” Moses says. “This is probably the only time all week she can get out by herself.” Moses says she enjoys talking to older people.

“He [the patient] talks about growing up in Minnesota and what it was like when he was a boy. It’s really interesting to find out how he lived. I think we really learn a lot from older people.”

Moses began volunteer work for Respite about two years ago when she found she had some time she wanted to fill. Training for her volunteer work took about 10 hours, she says.

Lula Deakin, who coordinates the program, wishes there were more volunteers like Moses.

“We get called daily with requests for services. The awareness of this program is growing, doctors are referring people more, and we always need more volunteers,” she says. Deakin says that currently families who need a break from their full-time caregiving roles have to wait about two weeks.

Catholic Social Services began the Respite program in June 1990, and since then has helped 66 families. There are 35 active volunteers in the program. Respite receives 20 percent of its funding from the United Way.

The University’s United Way campaign, now in its final week, had reached $693,172 by Oct. 23, the most current total available to the Record at press time.

“It is exceptional that we are as close to last year as we are, given the economic climate,” says United Way Campaign Chair John Forsyth. “It is a significant tribute to U-M staff that the average gift is up 12 percent. But at the same time, we have seen fewer people giving. We had hoped to involve at least one-half of our staff this year, which would be a strong commitment to the community.”

Forsyth notes that the campaign goal did not increase this year and that needs in the community continue to grow.

“It would be a shame if we couldn’t contribute at least an amount equal to what was given last year,” he says.

The current total is only two percent lower than last year’s donations at the same point in the campaign.

The University campaign is scheduled to end this week.


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