Raina Schoen Thomas ’20 and Terry Price ’58 at the Home Away From Home program in 2019. (File photo/Keith Walters' 11)
The trained student volunteers who assist local residents with memory loss and their families have received national recognition.
The Home Away from Home Respite Center at SUNY Geneseo is one of four respite services from across the country named as “Innovative and Exemplary” by ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center. Each service met strict criteria and meet the needs of family caregivers of children, adults and/or older adults. By recognizing high quality respite services across the country, ARCH hopes to encourage the study, expansion and replication of such services.
"The families that are cared for in our respite program appreciate and love the students and with the growing population of elderly adults in our county and country, the need for our program and others like it is ever increasing," says Sharon Leary, program coordinator and the College’s student employment service coordinator and community outreach assistant, of the award. "The students give their time, compassion, empathy, and energy to people in their adopted community each week, and it is of no surprise to me when I see all the positive effects of this mutually beneficial experience circle back to the students."
The Home Away from Home program was created at the College five years ago to address the gap in community services for aging residents with Alzheimer’s and other memory-related illnesses. The program provides caregivers free time to care for themselves and to reduce social isolation, while their loved ones spend enjoyable, quality time in a safe environment. Each student volunteer completes training on memory-related diseases, communication techniques and tools for managing challenging situations. They plan daily activities rooted in beneficial routines for people with memory-related diseases, with enough variety to keep it fun.
During a typical semester, students dedicate about 1,000 hours of time to the respite, led by Sharon Leary, . On July 8, she held a Zoom gathering for all present and past volunteers to celebrate the award. "I was touched to see 13 people show up plus many more who were not able to attend, but who wrote letters of congratulations and included story after story of what this program did and does mean to them," says Leary. "For many they say it was the highlight of their time on campus."