Flexibility: High

Social Engagement: High

What’s What: Respite companions visit people living with a disability or dementia and provide much needed relief for their primary caregivers. With a short, regular visit you can brighten someone’s life while also giving their primary caregiver a break.

Amava Take: Many families are looking for compassionate people who have a few hours to spend each week (or month) visiting someone who is homebound. Visits are easy to do and can entail talking, reading, playing an instrument or just being a friend. Some organizations also provide visitors for people who live in nursing, assisted living and adult family homes, especially those who don’t have family close by. Bottom line: you can make a huge difference in the life of someone who could use some companionship.

From the Front Lines:

What kinds of candidates are you looking for to fill these jobs?

Friendly, compassionate people who are able to commit to a visit on a regular basis.

Any tips for first-timers to make it a productive and fulfilling experience?

Keep in close contact with the primary caregiver and communicate with them in advance about any scheduling issues.

What’s a typical daily schedule like?

Completely dependent upon caregiver and organization needs and your availability. Usually volunteers sign up for a weekly or monthly visit with the same person. Visits can include playing games, going for a walk, having a meal, singing or just hanging out and talking.

From the Trenches:

What’s the most satisfying part of the job?

Getting to know the person I visit and seeing how much my visits mean to her.   

How would you describe the hard parts?

Seeing the declining health of the woman I visit.

What do you learn from doing this work?

How easy it is to develop a friendship with someone that has had a very different life from my own.

Special Requirements: Generally you must have personal references and pass a background check. Some organizations also have a training program or ask for a minimum time commitment.

Finding a Position: Go to Elder Helpers for more information and to fill out an application. Also check with your local county as there are many county-run programs.. There are also many local non-profits such as Friendship Works (Boston Area) or Friend to Friend America (Washington State) you can find through online searching. This article details the importance of respite care for caregivers. The National Association for Home Care offers the latest information about home health care.