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A client, a caregiver and their senior companion share how Senior Day Services brought them together

When Bill Mullen first heard about Senior Day Services’ Senior Companion program, he was reluctant to become a client. His son Chris, however, urged him to give it a chance. They met with Peggy Trently, a 5-year volunteer, and the three have now been connected within the program for over a year. Below, Chris, Bill and Peggy share their story and how the Senior Companion program has uniquely impacted their lives.

How long have you been involved with Senior Day Services?

Chris: We’ve been in the program one year this September. I actually heard about it through a lunch and learn presentation they did at the Hospice of the Sacred Heart, where I am a nurse. I shared the idea with Dad, and, after some discussion, we decided to give it a try.

Peggy: I’ve worked with Bill and Chris for about a year, and I’ve been a Senior Companion for six years this coming March.

What concerns did you have before starting the program?

Chris: When Dad moved in five years ago, he was very leery about getting involved with any type of senior program. He did not want to go out and meet with large groups of people. When we heard that a companion could come into our home, in a one-on-one setting, he was willing to try that even though he was still nervous.

How did the Senior Companion program help allay some of those concerns?

Bill: It was nice to meet Peggy. I felt very comfortable with her. She was easy to get along with and I felt like I was able to talk with her and joke with her.

Chris: Senior Day Services made us feel comfortable from the beginning. During our initial interview, they allowed my dad to be in control; he was able to let them know what he did and did not want. The second time, just Peggy came, and they connected very well. She was so good at paying attention to the little things he needed, making him feel special. One of the things that I also think helped my father was knowing that even if we tried it out and he didn’t feel comfortable, he didn’t need to continue.

Peggy: Being there with Bill and talking with him was the way I felt I could help him. I understand it’s difficult for many clients who have few chances to socialize; Bill especially misses his wife a lot and talks about her often. I’m just there to listen to him. He’s a wonderful guy.

What are some of the activities you enjoy doing together?

Bill: I got Peggy to like Crazy Eights, and she got me into playing Dominos. I really enjoy talking with her and I tell her good jokes. She makes sure I have breakfast when she arrives and that I have lunch before she leaves. And I always try to make sure that we have cookies that she likes in the house.

Peggy: When I get there, I usually make him breakfast. Then we eat, talk, and play cards for the two hours I’m there. He often talks about the Navy and about old movies and asks if I remember them. Before I leave, I make him lunch, and I try to help him with whatever else he needs.

Have you seen the Senior Companion program make a difference in your life?

Bill: Oh yes, it definitely did. It makes me feel comfortable, and I love talking and joking with Peggy.

Chris: Absolutely. You could tell the difference when I came home and Peggy had been here: Dad’s spirits were higher, he was more interactive and eager to share what they had done, whether that was a game they played or a conversation they had about the Navy or “the good old days.” It has helped him immensely to be able to relate to someone besides just our family.

Peggy: I think it definitely makes a big difference for Bill. His son always tells me that he can’t wait until I get there, and I think he really likes the companionship.

Was there anything that surprised you about the Senior Companion program?

Bill: I never felt that they were pushy. Peggy was always very understanding and very genuine. She was also very flexible with the time; if she got here a little late, she would stay a little longer to make up for it.

Chris: I was surprised by how dedicated Peggy was. Even if she was going to be just five minutes late, she’d call to let me know. She’d also call me after she visited to let me know everything went well. Her dedication is beyond my expectations, and I’m impressed that there’s no financial obligation for this service.*

Have you kept in touch during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Bill: Peggy calls me every week, and even if she’s unable to call one day she follows up the next.

Chris: As a nurse, I value the continuity of care we’ve received. In addition to calling my father—which I know means so much to him—Peggy has also reached out to me, just to check in. Senior Day Services has really stepped up through the pandemic to ensure that all of their clients are taken care of.

Peggy: Yes, we call them weekly and we often talk for an hour or more. I know they want me to come back—they miss me, and I miss them too!

Would you recommend the Senior Companion program to others?

Bill: Yes, I feel very comfortable with the program. It lets me interact more and feel less lonely.

Chris: Yes, because it provides my father with comfort, companionship and socialization. Before COVID, my husband and I both left home eight hours a day, four days a week. Senior Day Services worked with us to make sure that Peggy would come on the days that my dad was by himself. It was just so reassuring for me to know that someone was present during the day. and that it was someone my dad enjoyed spending time with.

Peggy: Yes, it’s a good program to get into. All of the caregivers are really nice, and everything is also very confidential to protect our clients’ privacy.

What would you say to those reluctant to explore the Senior Companion program?

Chris: We both feel strongly that it’s a good idea to at least meet with a representative from the program. The transition from there to working with the Senior Companion was seamless, and throughout the process there was no obligation to continue unless we wanted to. At first, we thought a male companion might be better in order to relate to my father’s military background, but during the interview process they aimed to identify what needs my father had, and they matched us perfectly with Peggy. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

*The Senior Companion program is free to residents of Lackawanna County

If you are interested in becoming a Senior Companion, visit www.seniordayservices.org/senior-companion

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