Seniors in the community, who are living alone or who may need a little assistance with their daily chores, can find help through an organization called Elder Care Services, Inc. The organization, in 1974, began a Senior Companion Program which utilizes volunteers who are 60 years or older to sit with these seniors up to five hours per day. Volunteers help with tasks such as reading, playing games, cooking a meal and providing needed companionship.
Senior Companion provides friendship and assistance to those who need the services, give peace of mind to caregivers, as well as improving the quality of life for the companions themselves.
In 2013, with the help of Madison County, Elder Care Services’ 104 Senior Companions provided over 87,000 hours of service and companionship to more than 212 seniors and 148 caregivers in their 15-county service area.
This year on Friday, Dec. 5, Elder Care Services held a Christmas Celebration, recognizing volunteers for their years of service to the Senior Companion Program. At the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, Madison resident Edith Swilley, one of the program’s faithful volunteers was recognized for her 10 years of service, which enabled many of Madison’s seniors to remain in their home.
In talking with Swilley, she relayed she had been a caregiver since the age of 10 when she worked in place of her Mother if she became ill, doing small tasks such as sweeping floors and washing dishes. As she grew older she cared for younger children after school and tended to them until their parents came home. As an adult Swilley worked in homecare, working in client’s homes and says she worked for one client for 19 years.
Swilley’s caregiving took on a personal note when her daughter, who had suffered with heart problems for 25 years became so ill Swilley had to care for her in her home, which she did for three months until her daughter passed. It was at that point, after a brief respite, that Swilley began volunteering through Elder Care Services. For close to 11 years, Swilley has volunteered every week, Monday through Thursday with clients who were mostly long-term clients she saw week after week. “This is something you do from your heart,” said Swilley. “Being a part of the Senior Companion Program has been a rewarding experience that I’ll never forget.”
Elaine Hartley, the long-term service case manager who schedules services in the homes was sad when she learned of Swilley’s retirement. “I just hate it,” said Hartley. “She always did more than what was expected of her. She’s an incredible person.” Program Coordinator Deborah Latson, in her description of Swilley, described her as dependable, courteous and one who shows enthusiasm towards her service to her clients. She also stated how much caregivers and clients enjoyed having Swilley in their homes.
When asked what the long-term caregiver planned on doing after retiring from her volunteer work at the end of this month, Swilley said, “I’m going to go home and rest; God has blessed me.”