Your new grandma is waitingJessica Gomez wants to find you a new grandma. Gomez, for the past two years a nursing assistant at Farmington’s Trinity Care Center, is in the process of launching a program that will pair community members with nursing home residents who are looking for a little company.
By: Nathan Hansen, The Farmington Independent
Jessica Gomez wants to find you a new grandma.
Gomez, for the past two years a nursing assistant at Farmington’s Trinity Care Center, is in the process of launching a program that will pair community members — Gomez figures they’ll mostly be teenagers looking for volunteer opportunities — with nursing home residents who are looking for a little company.
If things go the way Gomez hopes, both people will benefit from what Gomez is describing as an Adopt a Grandparent relationship. The care center residents will have someone to talk to once a week, and the volunteers will gain a better appreciation for their elders.
That’s something Gomez thinks is lacking these days.
“I think that society is changing,” she said. “A lot of time people just don’t value their elders as much. They have so much wisdom.”
The idea for the program started in a class Gomez took as she works toward her nursing degree. She talked with her supervisor about the idea, then applied for a University of Minnesota grant that will allow her to study the effect of the program on the care center’s residents. She plans to evaluate the residents after three months to see if their mood and their perception of the care they’re receiving have improved.
Gomez expects residents will enjoy having someone to talk to on a regular basis. Living in a nursing home can be lonely, she said. Even though you’re surrounded by other people it’s sometimes difficult to strike up a conversation with some of the other residents and nursing home employees are too busy to stop and talk for more than a couple of minutes.
“They would love to be able to sit down and talk to you for an hour,” Gomez said. “They’ve got so many interesting stories, but when you’ve got so many people to take care of you don’t have time to sit down and listen.”
That’s where the adoptive grandchildren come in. Gomez is looking for people to come in for an hour or so, once a week, and just sit down and chat. She plans to use interest surveys to match grandparents and grandkids with similar interests.
Gomez imagines she’ll mostly get high school students volunteering. Many are looking for volunteer projects for college applications or school credit. And many will be able to drive themselves to the care center each week. But she’ll take anyone who’s interested in volunteering.
If the program works the way Gomez hopes, volunteers will learn some interesting things and they’ll get a better understanding of another generation. Gomez hopes the program will help break down stereotypes.
“Some people think all elderly people live in nursing homes. All of them have dementia. All of them smell funny,” Gomez said. “Just things people come up with surrounding elders.”
The study period of the Adopt a Grandparent program will last three months, but Gomez hopes to get a commitment of at least a year from her volunteers. If things go well, she’d like to expand the program into the community.
So far, reaction has been good. She’s already got several residents interested in signing up to be adopted.
“I’m ecstatic about it,” Gomez said. “I’m excited. Everything’s finally falling into place. I’m really excited to see if we can make a difference in people’s lives.
Gomez will hold an information session from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 8 for volunteers who are interested in participating. For more information, call her at 651-492-8659 or e-mail Adopt_An_Abuelo@yahoo.com.