For almost 50 years the Telephone Reassurance (TR) Program at JFS Richmond has provided security and socialization for older adults across the Greater Richmond Area. The program first started when the late Anne Lane, former JFS Executive Director, recognized that elder care was and would be a growing concern in the community. Since then, every weekday morning and afternoon several of the possible 19 TR volunteers join Sheryl Luebke, supervisor of Senior Engagement and Volunteer Resources, in the JFS office to call our 34 TR clients. The success of the program is two-fold: the retention and appreciation from the clients and the dedication by the volunteers.
On the most basic level, Luebke says the longevity and success of the program is because “it is simple to develop and operate and it meets a basic need for socialization. Elder isolation is a big factor in declining mental and physical health. Though we [JFS] say that security is an equal motivation for the program, our clients say that socialization is more important to them.”
An interview with Mr. R, a TR client of five years, speaks to the strength of TR as a means of socialization. Mr. R was referred to JFS through a partner social service organization after experiencing extended isolation after his wife’s passing. In a recent interview Mr. R said:
“I am alive because of them [TR Volunteers]. After my wife died I had a hard time dealing with it and it came to a point where I needed to talk about it. Every morning I get to talk to people who actually care about how I am doing – and I care about how they are as well. My favorite moment of each day is when I talk to my friends at JFS. I connect with everyone there. They give me encouragement and provide me with helpful information when I need it. They make me feel like somebody.”
The TR program would not be so successful if it wasn’t for our dedicated volunteers who spend their time each week helping at JFS. “JFS’ TR volunteers have the most longevity of any group of volunteers,” Luebke comments; “they are the most committed to client care. The clients become their virtual friends.”
Suzi is one of JFS’ dedicated TR volunteers. Suzi has volunteered twice a week for the past fourteen months and best summarizes her experience as a TR volunteer as being part of a family full of laughter.
“My personality is laughter and if you laugh with people, you can have a ball. They tell you so many stories you can relate to. For example, recently I was talking to Mrs. W and she is planning a trip to Europe; we were both so excited that she was able to have this experience. I thought of my experience in Europe and told her all of the places to go and things to see – I felt like Barbara Walters.”
Suzi said she would recommend if you have the time, to spend it as a TR volunteer: “It doesn’t cost any money and it brings you so much pleasure. Just think about being alone and someone calls you every day to say hello; they are the ones I come in for”.
Telephone reassurance is a free service provided by JFS Richmond. If you are interested or know someone who would be interested in participating in the TR program as a client or volunteer, please contact Sheryl Luebke at [email protected] or 804-282-5644 x244 to learn more.