The AHELP Volunteer Network is central to our mission of supporting pet caregivers in the Seattle and Eastside areas. We launched the network at our “Friend In Need” Open House, soliciting community questions and input. A number of participants shared their own significant caregiving challenges, confirming the need for this service, and over a dozen attendees signed up to volunteer.
Our Volunteer Coordinator, Carol Soukup, is currently planning the first volunteer gathering. Carol has been a Registered Nurse for 34 years, and after working as a hospice nurse she developed a passion for palliative care principles which are dedicated to relieving the symptoms that can occur as end of life approaches. “I found that knowledge, and a plan with support persons in place, can greatly reduce the concerns of the family as they choose to provide a peaceful, in-home transition,” Carol says. “This family effort can be very challenging but also very rewarding and gives them more quality time with their precious loved one.” She is convinced that the same prinicples apply when the ailing family member is a pet, which explains why she feels so strongly about a network of volunteers whose assistance with daily chores can alleviate some of the pressure on caregivers.
Carol brings a unique set of skills to her position as Volunteer Coordinator. She has been an on-call RN for a hospice with a population of over 140 patients and as such has experience with telephone triage, family teaching, crisis management, and participation as a team member in patient case management.
If you are interested in the Volunteer Network, please contact Carol at Carol@ahelpproject.org. Read on for a description of the network.
Outline of the AHELP Project Volunteer Network Program
Describe the program: This will be a Coordinator-facilitated network that links an animal caregiver to a volunteer in their local community. A secure, web-based calendar service will be used to track requests for assistance and corresponding volunteer commitments.
Describe the caregiver requesting support: This might be a family experiencing increased care needs for their animal after a life-limiting diagnosis or just the normal aging process of the animal. This can be a very intense emotional time for the primary caregiver as they begin the anticipatory grief work. The caregiver may become overwhelmed and not even realize it is happening; it just gets harder to relax and harder to keep up with commitments. The nuclear family may be sensing this increased level of anxiety and not know why or what to do to help.
Describe the AHELP Volunteer: This person has experienced the importance of the animal-human bond and wants to help others going through this difficult time. This volunteer would be willing to perform individual tasks in order to allow the primary caregiver more unstructured time with their pet. Typical tasks might be to deliver a prepared meal to the home, assist with laundry of the pet bedding, assist with care for another animal in the home such as walk a healthy dog.
Training and support of AHELP Volunteers: Volunteers will be trained in the importance of dependability, the need for confidentiality, the limits of their scope of involvement, and liability issues as well as the AHELP Project’s mission, vision and goals. Support will be provided through monthly AHELP volunteer gatherings designed to educate as well as provide emotional support to the volunteers.
The flow of the AHELP Volunteer network:
–Referral may come from a veterinary service, allied pet care services, or through internet inquiries.
–Initial contact could be via email, phone, or the ahelpproject.org website.
–The Volunteer Coordinator will monitor these sources and respond to requests for support within 24 hours.
–The Volunteer Coordinator will complete the intake contact information sheet while communicating with the client either by phone or email.
–The Volunteer Coordinator will enter the client information into a private, secure web service that will serve as the tool for linking the caregiver to a trained AHELP volunteer within their vicinity.
– Tasks or needs of the animal caregiver will be identified on the website calendar.
– An email will be sent to all AHELP volunteers in that vicinity to inform the volunteers of specific requests for assistance.
–The volunteer will sign up for the task they would like to assist with.
–An email is then initiated through the web service informing the caregiver of the volunteer commitment. The caregiver will be notified of the volunteer’s name and when to expect their assistance.