The Buddy System – Certified Community Corner (C3)
by Laura Lavoie,
PAC Certified Independent Trainer and Engagement Leader
The two of them sit shoulder to shoulder on the couch, a typical winter evening, the Giants are playing and they are the only two in a sea of Patriots’ fans hoping for their win! Meet Joe and Norman. Joe is Norm’s friend, and his buddy. Joe is one of several volunteers who has been specially trained in the PAC Approach to become a part of our team. Recalling the buddy system philosophy, in dangerous areas, such as swimming pools, going alone could present an ultimate risk. Dementia itself is the ultimate risk, but alone in dementia can be a disastrous journey!! Enter my take on the Buddy System Program…
I decided to take pieces of what I had learned with my PAC training, and mold it into a cohesive truncated training for people in the community to become volunteers to residents with cognitive impairment. A press release went out and twelve people arrived on the morning of the training ready to go. The training lasted two hours, after which each person filled out a detailed information sheet about themselves. I wanted to know more about them, to know who would fit best with who – similar interests, backgrounds, religions, and yes, even sports teams!
Volunteers were asked to make a significant commitment to the program. They had to agree to come at least twice a week, for at least a half hour each time. Once matches were made, introductions were arranged, the program began. The success of this program has gone far beyond my greatest hopes. Aside from Joe and Norm, whose wives have now become involved as well, we have Carole, a lovely southern accented lady who comes in and blesses everyone’s hearts with her presence. Carole has had many buddies. She had approached me after the training and said she would like to take some of the harder cases. She has been amazing, and you can find her all over the building on any given day for hours at a time. Like Carole, Joe will spend hours with Norman too, and even agreed to come on specific days so that Norm’s wife Enid could attend our Caregiver Support Group. There are other dedicated buddies as well; a wonderful woman who emails with family to coordinate which days each of them will come, another who walks her buddy to programs and helps her get all she can out of them, and more. Several email and converse with the families, giving them updates on their visits. One set of brothers were so appreciative of their mom’s buddy that they donated $5,000.00 to further our dementia program offerings.
One good and unique effort seems to inspire the best in everyone. To thrive in one's self-worth has become exciting in the discovery that each of us can be wonderfully able to make a difference. My hope is that buddies will soon pop up all over the country!
Laura Lavoie is the director of life enrichment and a dementia specialist at Glenmeadow, a life plan community in Longmeadow, MA. Laura has worked in the field of dementia for over 23 years. She is passionate about furthering her education in the area, as well as being committed to spreading the PAC philosophy however she can. Laura is an PAC Certified Independent Trainer and Engagement Leader who looks forward to continuing and expanding her PAC journey in the coming years.