Helping Seniors Live at Home: Salt Lake County Senior Companion Program

Abstract: 
 
This practice is one in a series of successful management practices that relate to Program Example: Salt Lake County Aging Services Senior Companion Program.
 
Salt Lake County Aging Services (SLCAS) operates a Senior Companion Program that serves as a hub for the organization’s diverse array of aging services. Since its inception in 1985 they have evolved from a simple visitation/companionship model into one that supports a broader set of national health priorities, including respite care, extended residency at home, and wellness. Critical to this evolution has been a concerted effort to invest in their volunteer base with the goal of promoting stability by retaining service members. They view their Senior Companions not as temporary volunteers who may come and go, but as valuable, long-term assets. To this end, they work proactively to help companions avoid burnout and to extend companion tenure.
 
Issue:
 
The inherent stresses of the Senior Companion position can lead to member burnout and shorter volunteer tenure.
 
Action:
 
Allowing flexibility
SLCAS gives each Senior Companion the flexibility to cultivate and maintain their client relationships in the way that best accommodates his personality, preferences, interests, and schedule (within program regulations).
 
Enforcing limited hours
Staff at SLCAS emphasize to Senior Companions the importance of taking time away from the volunteer experience. Even though CNCS allows companions to serve up to 40 hours per week, SLCAS strives to enforce a 20- to 25-hour per week work limit to reduce job-related stress.
 
Boosting morale
To maintain positive attitudes among members, SLCAS holds periodic recognition events, including a fall luncheon, a summer picnic, companion birthday salutes, and celebrations of service anniversary dates.
 
Outcome:
 
SLCAS Senior Companion Program volunteers have long tenure with the organization and consistently report high satisfaction levels with the companion experience. Lower turnover rates also result in reduced time spent by the program on the recruitment, screening, and placement process.
 
 
Citations: 
 
Abt Associates. (2011, December). Serving communities: How four organizations are using national service to solve community problems. Washington, DC: Corporation for National and Community Service.

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