Promoting companion development with effective in-service trainings and resources

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.

Over the past 25 years, the Salt Lake County Aging Services (SLCAS) Senior Companion Program has emerged as a highly effective program that connects the county's older population with its diverse array of aging services. They view their Senior Companions not as temporary volunteers who may come and go, but as valuable, long-term assets. To promote companion development, SLCAS holds monthly volunteer in-service trainings (over and above the required 40 hours) that offer specialized training and recognition.

Issue:

Creating in-service trainings that are engaging and relevant to all members can be a challenge, especially for programs with a highly stable volunteer base.

Action:

SLCAS holds monthly in-service trainings for their volunteers. To keep the sessions engaging and relevant to all volunteers, they use these sessions as an opportunity to invite outside experts to address the group. For example, an expert on memory loss discussed techniques that can build rapport with people who have memory problems. In-service meetings are also used to familiarize Senior Companions with community resources that might help their clients, including speakers about driver testing and heating assistance programs available to local seniors.

To augment the trainings, SLCAS has compiled a senior resource directory entitled 55+, which contains a detailed list of health-related services such as medical clinics, in-home care services, and mental health counselors, as well as other general information about libraries, consumer protection agencies, and financial counseling centers. This resource helps the Senior Companions customize their service to individual clients and to serve as advocates for clients beyond the daily routine.

Outcome:

Specialized monthly in-service trainings are engaging to seasoned volunteers and new ones alike; they also give the Senior Companions the tools and resources they need to customize service to individual client needs. Using55+, one companion helped a client modify her house payments through the bank, access survivor's benefits through the Veteran's Administration, and get assistance from a local food bank.

For more information:

Website:  SLCAS Senior Companion Program

Related Resources: 

55+ Senior Resource Directory

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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