Partners in Care: A Way to Give and Receive

Partners in Care: A Way to Give and Receive
A physician who has late-stage multiple sclerosis is being helped by a kind Partners In Care (PIC) volunteer to adapt her computer for use with one hand so she can read journals on the Internet and maintain her certification. An older woman lives with her two daughters, ages 60-plus. One daughter is physically disabled and one is mentally disabled. The woman tells a Partners In Care volunteer that since her daughters are now members of PIC, she knows they will receive the transportation they need, so she feels they will be safe if she dies.
Despite all the budget cutbacks throughout the state and the nation, older adults are discovering new ways to transform the community. In February Partners In Care Maryland was honored by the National Council on Aging as one of only 14 programs in the nation with the potential to be a national program model for older adult volunteers.
What happens when we become too old or frail to drive to the grocery store or the doctor’s office? What do we do when arthritis makes it impossible to make the smallest repairs around the house or even to change a light bulb? What if our friends have moved or died and we don’t have family nearby to help us? PIC uses the tool of time-banking or service-exchange to build a community network of care around older adults, helping older adults to remain independent as long as possible in their own homes.
Many PIC volunteer members have almost made a career of helping others. The volunteers, using their own cars, provide rides, for example, to the doctor and to the grocery store, along with other assistance such as small handyman repairs. When projects are too big to do alone, groups are organized to get the work done. Some volunteers appear in the PIC office several times a week to pick up safety equipment that they then install for the elderly and disabled—from raised toilet seats to bathroom railings. Participants earn one credit for every hour spent assisting others. Those participants then use those credits to “pay” for services they themselves need. Everyone is called a “member” whether they are giving services or receiving services.
What began as a kitchen-table nonprofit has developed into a vital resource with 2,600 participants currently exchanging more than 20,000 hours of services each year in both Anne Arundel County and in Frederick. There are plans to expand throughout the state. Approximately 800 members are primarily volunteers while others are more likely to need assistance than to provide it.
The program, founded in Anne Arundel County in 1993, has dramatically improved the quality of life of isolated seniors — both from the social interaction and the sense of community. How can you help PIC? Visit http://www.partnersincare.org/ or phone (410) 544-4800.

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