The Gift that Gives Back Part 2: Compassionate Caregiving

Are you a good listener? Do you play an instrument or are passionate about sharing music with others? 

Do you knit or crochet? Journal your own memories? 

Any of these “specialties” referred to are often overlooked as casual hobbies. But take a second look, and you will quickly realize how these skills can make an enormous difference when shared with others – particularly with persons who are homebound or in memory care or hospice. 

Companionship is high on the list of volunteer needs in our area. It’s no secret that Southern Delaware has a large senior population, and it’s growing. There are long term care facilities, memory care inpatient and outpatient clinics, and sadly many hospice services. Yet none of these situations need to be sad if there are volunteers with compassion who make a difference in the daily lives of special individuals. 

You can Google “volunteer opportunities for caretaking in Sussex County, DE,” and dozens of organizations and facilities pop up with recruiting messages for willing volunteers. Chances are, these facilities and visiting care organizations cannot afford to pay full time staff. 

Volunteer Match, for example, posts all kinds of requests for volunteerism. Then there’s Volunteer Delaware 50+, a division of Delaware state’s office of volunteerism (yes – isn’t that a wonderful concept??) can help place seniors to help seniors and any other age group. 

And what about veterans? One good resource to find out how to help our local servicemen and women is Delaware Veterans Home. They welcome assistance with everything from clerical work to gardening to music therapy. 

The US Department of Veterans Affairs also has a comprehensive list of local volunteer opportunities based on zip codes. The beauty of that? You can touch the hearts of a veteran neighbor that may need help with everything from tax returns to transportation or shopping for groceries. 

There are opportunities to support outreach events, mental health, homelessness, PTSD, minority issues and more for our veterans who often are overlooked and disadvantaged after completing their service. 

Hospice care is incredibly important for persons at the end of life. Volunteering to do everything from reading, journaling memoirs or even knitting sweaters and blankets make an enormous difference in this time of need. Volunteering your time inevitably also helps to relieve family members in need of a break. 

Michelle Symni, a Lewes resident donates her time and caregiving skills weekly at a local hospice care facility, and finds it personally gratifying and humbling at the same time. She reads aloud, brings musical recordings and sometimes just listens to patients, knowing she can give some comfort. “Nothing make me smile and cry at the same time,” she says. “It’s actually a privilege to learn from those I’m helping. They are actually the ones helping me,” she says with a smile. 

Many local churches lead organized efforts to help people in need, whether it’s companionship or a hot, homecooked meal. It’s an excellent way to meet new friends while you are at it! 

And then, there are our youth who also need our help, whether it’s after school homework help, mentoring or day trips to give Mom a break. Connecting with local youth can not only make you feel younger, but it can help inspire kids to achieve goals they didn’t even realize they were capable of. 

Caregiving, companionship or sharing a hobby is one of the most generous forms of volunteerism you can donate during your retirement. It provides a renewed sense of purpose.  

Share your experience and compassion. Volunteer! 

Other resources: 

Volunteer Delaware 50 

Volunteer Delaware Listings 

Great Nonprofits in Delaware 

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