Assisted living care takes many talents

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Connie George
Jim Graham, a Mirage Inn volunteer for about 10 years, assists a resident with bingo.
Photo courtesy of Mirage Inn

For hundreds of Coachella Valley residents, assisted living facilities allow them the opportunity to maintain a relatively independent lifestyle while receiving help with daily tasks they can no longer perform alone.

Professional staff members provide such support as medication management, housekeeping and meal services, and assistance with bathing and dressing.

But volunteers at these apartment- or dorm-like communities contribute significantly to the social, educational and recreational needs of those who live there, while also helping to hold down the costs of residency.

According ElderPoint.com, the national median monthly rate of residency in an assisted living facility has been increasing annually, and in 2011 was $3,261.

The average age of assisted living residents is about 87, with most widowed and many without regular visits from friends or family members. Companionship and other types of socialization are critical to the overall health of residents, and volunteers are an integral force in helping to meet these needs.

The volunteer activities at three local assisted living facilities illustrate the variety of support that volunteers can provide at the many such communities throughout the valley.

Mirage Inn

At the Mirage Inn in Rancho Mirage, volunteers help to keep the atmosphere lively, upbeat and stimulating for residents of either the assisted living or memory care facilities.

Ashley Barkley, director of Lifestyle Programs, said new volunteers are always needed to join other team members, whether in ongoing or occasional roles. “We can always use them,” she said.

Visits by children’s groups or friendly pets, musical entertainers and other performers, decorators for holidays and other special events, or those who can provide cheer and companionship — all are vital to keeping residents positive and involved with others.

“It means a lot to our residents to know the community cares and wants to reach out to them,” Barkley said. “It’s very meaningful and can be a rewarding experience both ways.”

The Mirage Inn is at 72750 Country Club Dr., Rancho Mirage. For more information about its volunteer activities, call Barkley at (760) 346-7772.

Hallmark Palm Springs

One of the smaller assisted living facilities in the valley, Hallmark Palm Springs still has no fewer volunteer needs.

Executive Director Jeff Roberts said that critically important is “helping the residents feel like they’re wanted and needed, like the volunteers actually want to be there and that it’s not an obligation.”

Hallmark particularly seeks volunteers to help with such activities as presenting travel stories and photos, teaching exercise classes, providing entertainment, calling bingo games and playing cards with residents.

Such assistance “helps keep our residents engaged, active, and socially and physically well,” Roberts said. “Volunteers are always so vital to a community such as ours and the others in the valley.”

Hallmark Palm Springs is at 344 N. Sunrise Way, Palm Springs. For more information about its volunteer activities, call Roberts at (760) 322-3955.

Joy Whitehurst is one of many volunteers from Sacred Heart Church in Palm Desert who provide one-on-one visits with Vista Cove residents once a week.
Photo courtesy of Vista Cove at Rancho Mirage.

Vista Cove at Rancho Mirage

Specializing in memory care, Vista Cove at Rancho Mirage seeks volunteers who can provide companionship and mental stimulation, such as music, for its residents.

“It’s just good to have a little one-on-one,” said activities director Brenda Jenkins of the need for volunteers who can engage on a personal level with residents.

Volunteers are not required to be previously familiar with Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that contribute to memory loss, she said.

Jenkins seeks “people who would just want to come and be a companion. Even if conversation can’t be made, sometimes just human touch is helpful.”

At present, Vista Cove has about 12 regular volunteers, but 56 residents. “If every resident had a visitor every week, that would be great,” Jenkins said.

Vista Cove is at 70201 Mirage Cove Dr., Rancho Mirage. For more information about its volunteer activities, call Jenkins at (760) 324-4604.