This first day of autumn might get you thinking of apples, pumpkin pie, and changing leaves. However, the folks at the National Council on Aging also ask us to think about how to prevent falls.

They’ve designated Sept. 22, the first day of fall, as National Falls Prevention Day. In Caregivers Corner this week, we are sharing the council’s 10 common myths about falling. It turns out that we can do a lot to prevent falls.

While many people think falls are a normal part of aging, that’s simply not true. At Community Caregivers, we frequently encounter people who need help with everyday activities because they have fallen.

Falls among older adults can be a game-changer. In fact, it’s not uncommon that a person will need to give up living independently once injured by falling. So, let’s back up and take a closer look at preventing those falls in the first place.

Debunking the myths

Myth 1: Falling happens to other people, not to me.

Reality: Many people think, “It won’t happen to me.” But the truth is that one in three older adults — about 12 million — fall every year in the United States.

Myth 2: Falling is something normal that happens as you get older.

Reality: Falling is not a normal part of aging. Strength and balance exercises, managing your medications, having your vision checked, and making your living environment safer are all steps you can take to prevent a fall.

Myth 3: If I limit my activity, I won’t fall.

Reality: Some people believe that the best way to prevent falls is to stay at home and limit activity. Not true. Performing physical activities will actually help you stay independent, as your strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities are also helpful.

Myth 4: As long as I stay at home, I can avoid falling.

Reality: Over half of all falls take place at home. Inspect your home for fall risks. Fix simple but serious hazards such as clutter, throw rugs, and poor lighting. Make simple home modifications, such as adding grab bars in the bathroom, a second handrail on stairs, and non-slip paint on outdoor steps.

Myth 5: Muscle strength and flexibility can’t be regained.

Reality: While we do lose muscle as we age, exercise can partially restore strength and flexibility. It’s never too late to start an exercise program. Even if you’ve been a couch potato your whole life, becoming active now will benefit you in many ways — including protection from falls.

Myth 6: Taking medication doesn't increase my risk of falling.

Reality: Taking any medication may increase your risk of falling. Medications affect people in many different ways and can sometimes make you dizzy or sleepy. Be careful when starting a new medication. Talk to your health-care provider about potential side effects or interactions of your medications.

Myth 7: I don’t need to get my vision checked every year.

Reality: Vision is another key risk factor for falls. Aging is associated with some forms of vision loss that increase risk of falling and injury. People with vision problems are more than twice as likely to fall as those without visual impairment. Have your eyes checked at least once a year and update your eyeglasses. For those with low vision, there are programs and assistive devices that can help. Ask your optometrist for a referral.

Myth 8: Using a walker or cane will make me more dependent.

Reality: Walking aids are very important in helping many older adults maintain or improve their mobility. However, make sure you use these devices safely. Have a physical therapist fit the walker or cane to you and instruct you in its safe use.

Myth 9: I don’t need to talk to family members or my health-care provider if I’m concerned about my risk of falling. I don’t want to alarm them, and I want to keep my independence.

Reality: Fall prevention is a team effort. Bring it up with your doctor, family, and anyone else who is in a position to help. They want to help you maintain your mobility and reduce your risk of falling.

Myth 10: I don’t need to talk to my parent, spouse, or other older adult if I’m concerned about their risk of falling. It will hurt their feelings, and it’s none of my business.

Reality: Let them know about your concerns and offer support to help them maintain the highest degree of independence possible. There are many things you can do, including removing hazards in the home, finding a fall prevention program in the community, or setting up a vision exam.

To learn more, ask about a Community Caregivers’ education presentation for your civic group. And, be sure to visit: www.ncoa.org/FallsPrevention.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors. Funding is derived in part from the Albany County Department for Aging, the New York State Office for the Aging, and the U.S. Administration on Aging.

To find out more about our services, as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda L. Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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This summer, I had the pleasure of serving as Community Caregivers’ intern for eight weeks. After completing my first year of medical school at Albany Medical College, I wanted to spend my summer outside of the library, gaining experience learning about the people I hope to treat someday.

Geriatrics has interested me since I applied to medical school because I had a close relationship with my grandparents and I have thought I would enjoy working with older patients. Prior to this summer, I assumed the main challenges facing this group of people was treating multiple medical conditions and finagling health insurance.

From my first day with Community Caregivers, my eyes were opened to the significant needs facing older people living in their homes or “aging in place.”  There are a vast number of older adults living alone or isolated who are trying to get by with little assistance, especially in rural Albany County where resources like public transportation and home health care are unavailable or overwhelmed.

Access to health care is only one facet of the problem. Simple needs like purchasing groceries and checking mail are crucial tasks, but not manageable for some people who lack another option aside from living in their homes.

However, as I learned about this need, I was simultaneously learning about the remarkable effort by Community Caregivers to aid this population and meet the growing need. Each staff member at Community Caregivers goes beyond his or her job description to coordinate over 150 volunteers, identify needs for hundreds of clients, direct clients to necessary resources, develop educational tools for the community, and obtain resources to maintain and expand the organization.

Witnessing the passion and skill each staff member, board member, and volunteer possesses for the people the organization serves has been rewarding to say the least.

Community Caregivers’ mission to bring older individuals in the community together into a village and help provide care, support, and relationships is both beautiful and essential.

This summer, I gained professional experience through writing, meeting clients, learning how a not-for-profit operates, reading literature, etc., but by far the greatest gain for me was becoming educated about a huge gap in our society for geriatric residents and how a group of committed individuals can band together and work tirelessly to fill that gap.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation, and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.  To find out more about Community Caregivers’ services or volunteer opportunities, visit www.communitycaregivers.org, email , or call (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Brandi Heinz, a student at Albany Medical College, was a summer intern at Community Caregivers.

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The Games of the XXX1 Olympiad in Rio have kept us riveted to our T.V. screens or devices for three weeks. From the very beginning we watched young people from 200 countries of the world compete.

We learned how much families sacrificed to give their athlete the privilege of going to Rio once they qualified. And, whether they won or not, qualified for their event or not, each was still a winner, a hero, because their dedication and sacrifices paid off.

Caregivers volunteers are heroes, too. Especially to the people they take to the doctors, or help shop, or provide companionship to, or take home from the food pantry.  Admittedly, our volunteers don’t undergo the strenuous workout that the athletes do, but they do give their time, keep their commitments, and enhance the life of the person they work with.

One story that stood out for me was the athlete who wrote a story, and drew pictures, of his dream to be in the Olympics when he grew up. Most of our volunteers probably didn’t always dream of being a volunteer. Most came to a point in their lives when they recognized they wanted to do something to help others. They had time to give to others.  They could make the sacrifice of time.

So, if you’re looking for something to do that will help others and be satisfying to you, check out our website: Communitycaregivers.org, or Facebook. Or call the office at (518) 456-2898 to find out when the next orientation is. Be an Olympian for someone in your community.

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There are some encouraging signs that the health-care system is finally embracing the kinds of at-home care that can focus on the patient’s needs and keep the individual out of the hospital.

Local insurance companies are working with a new provider, Landmark Services, which sends doctors to the home on a regular basis to make sure those at-risk patients who have recently been in the hospital get the follow-up care and monitoring they need.

Doctors making house calls returns us to the kind of person-centered care that we remember in our younger days. These changes are being driven by health-care policies that seek to cut down on re-admissions to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

Hospitals in our area as well as around the state and country are also embracing community supports.  In addition to in-home medical care provided by doctors and nurses, it is also clear that community services and social support are essential to successfully remaining at home.

“Community Supports Patient Navigators” are being used successfully in some areas to assist patients, their families, and caregivers navigate the complex medical and social-services systems following hospital discharge. Community Caregivers participated in one such program a few years ago and is now exploring re-establishing a volunteer-based community supports navigator program to work with local health providers.

What does a community supports navigator do?

Once the patient returns home from the hospital, the navigator’s primary tasks would include assistance in arranging follow-up appointments, transportation, and medication self-support.  Support would also include health literacy by providing information to support the patient’s self-care and linking to health promotion, chronic disease self-management programs, health care proxy forms and support groups.

Referral to community services through the Albany County Department for the Aging’s NY Connects program and other services would also be a role of the navigator.

Secondary tasks might include grocery shopping assistance, sorting mail, arranging for needed durable medical equipment, home companionship, caregiver support, and advance planning for emergency situations.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services including transportation and caregiver support at no charge to residents of Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New  Scotland, Berne, Knox and the city of Albany thorough a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

To find out more about our services as well as volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call us at(518) 456-2898.

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Plans are well underway for the 12th annual Community Caregivers Golf Outing, scheduled for Monday, June 20, at Orchard Creek Golf Course in Altamont. Player invitations have gone out and we look forward to a full field.

This year’s format is the same as in prior years: a scramble with three divisions — men's, women's and mixed. There will be prizes for closest to the pin and longest drive. And Lia Motors is offering a lease on a car for a hole in one on the 17th hole, which is par 3.

A big thank-you to our dedicated sponsors: Adirondack Environmental, Blasch Precision Ceramics, PhRMA, the State Employees Federal Credit Union, the American Association of Retired Persons, and Albany Medical Center.  Price Chopper/ Market 32 and Northway 8 are also offering hole-in-one prizes.

We have some great silent-auction items again this year, including a clubhouse box at Saratoga, a foursome of golf with carts at Leatherstocking Golf Course, a signed photo of Arnold Palmer, a cooking lesson with Chef Gio at Gio Culinary Studio in Voorheesville, and many others.

The player fee of $145 includes range balls, golf cart, box lunch, cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and a chicken-and-rib dinner.

Please visit our website for more information — www.communitycaregivers.org  — or call our office at (518) 456-2898.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation, and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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Do you recall that Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke died earlier this spring, on March 29 ? And do you recall the cause of her death? The cause listed was sepsis — brought about by a ruptured intestine.

Sepsis is the body’s overwhelming and life-threatening response to infection. It can lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death. Yet, according to the Sepsis Alliance, a national patient advocacy organization, only about 44 percent of adults have even heard of sepsis, much less know how to recognize it.

So, if you had a chance to learn more about sepsis, which can strike at any age but is most life threatening for infants and vulnerable adults, would you take it?

Well, here’s your chance.

On Thursday, June 9, Community Caregivers Inc. is teaming up with IPRO to offer a vital health education program entitled, “Recognizing Sepsis as a Medical Emergency.” IPRO is a national organization providing health-care assessment and improvement services.

This program will be held at the Guilderland Public Library, 2228 Western Avenue in Guilderland, beginning at 11 a.m.

The expert presenter will be Eve Bankert who is the IPRO Quality Improvement Specialist and project leader on the Community-Based Sepsis Awareness Initiative. As just noted, sepsis can be life-threatening and Eve will inform you about its early signs and symptoms.  And, just as importantly, she’ll tell you what to do.

Whether you are a community member, family caregiver, or service provider, you can learn valuable information about sepsis that could save a life. Eve will show a brief video followed by a presentation on the following:

— Recognizing early signs and symptoms of sepsis;

— Knowing who to call and what to do;

— Identifying high risk groups; and

— Simple things you can do to help prevent sepsis.

There will be plenty of time at the end for questions and answers. All are welcome and pre-registration not required. Again, please mark your calendar for Thursday, June 9, at 11 a.m. for this vital health education program. If you have further questions, you may call Community Caregivers Inc. a (518) 456-2898.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation, and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.  To find out more about our services or our volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call (518) 456-2898.

Editor’s note: Linda Miller, MPA, is the Outreach and Education coordinator for Community Caregivers.

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The Van Praags, Art and Julianne, live in Clarksville. They’ve been volunteering for Community Caregivers since 2007. They’re one of nine wife-and-husband teams that make up the volunteer pool.

Julianne regularly, weekly, assists an elderly client who still likes to do her own shopping. “She’s visually impaired,” says Julianne, “and she lives by herself.”

In addition to the weekly shopping, Julianne also waters plants, writes greeting cards, sorts mail, and even cleans out the fridge when it needs it. Julianne says she gets “satisfaction” out of helping.

“It’s nice helping people,” she said. “They appreciate it; you just get a good feeling from doing it.”

Julianne said, when she first started volunteering, the first three people she provided service for passed away. It was discouraging. Fortunately, she didn’t give up.

Reflecting on the nine years she’s been volunteering, she says, “I’ve met great people, both clients and staff.” While Julianne has a regular assignment, she will accept others if Mary Morrison, the Client/Volunteer Coordinator, calls and she’s available.

Art Van Praag volunteers to “make people’s lives much easier.” He said, “Whatever day I sign up for is their day. The time is theirs.”

Art has an assignment every Thursday, but, if he’s available, he’d volunteer as much as he’s called. He says, “I hate to say ‘no’.” Art has no problem taking people grocery shopping, to the bank, to the hairdressers, clothes shopping, or to the doctors.

Both Art and Julianne came to Caregivers as a result of Susan Cable’s recommendation. Susan was a former executive assistant for Caregivers. They also read about the organization in The Enterprise.

Art enjoys being with people and helping others. He said, as a kid, he did “stuff to help neighbors — raking, putting up screens, shoveling snow.”

As he looks back over his life, he says his parents were good role models. Art says he enjoys meeting different people. At the same time, he also enjoys working with the same person.

“You get to know them,” he adds. He’s been working with the same clients for two, three, or four years.

His philosophy? “Instead of sitting in a chair, get out there and do something.”

Julianne said she’d encourage others to think about volunteering and could tell them about her experiences, which have been wonderful. “Volunteering,” she said, “is a good use of time.

Julianne and Art have two calendars and boards visible to each other so they keep their assignments straight. When I planned to interview this couple, I wondered if they ever got their calendars confused. In our house, confusion does reign sometimes because one of us doesn’t put a date on the calendar.  They are clearly organized.

When people sign up to become volunteers, one of the questions asked is how they heard about Community Caregivers. Frequent responses are reading about us in The Enterprise and hearing about us from a friend or other volunteers.

Julianne and Art hardly skipped a beat after they retired — Julianne from being a secretary at Clarksville Elementary School, and Art from the painting/wallpapering line. It’s probably not surprising to learn they’ve also volunteered with other agencies: the food pantries; the town of New Scotland; and Julianne, as an aide at Clarksville Elementary before her school closed.

New volunteers are always needed. People move, they go away on vacation, their lives change; they may even become clients. Consider helping your neighbors as Julianne and Art do.  You can choose your day or days, your time, and the kind of service you’d like to provide.

Volunteering is very much a part of the Van Praags’ lives. Make it a part of yours. Call the office at (518) 456-2898 when you’re ready to join the team.

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Beginning on March 27, New York State required that all prescriptions be filed electronically by doctors or medical personnel.  This provision was passed in legislation a few years back to better control and track narcotic use; however, it was delayed in implementation after hospitals and medical personnel said they needed more time to implement it.  Many doctors and hospitals have already made the change now.

A recent report in The New York Times said that one result of the change to electronic prescribing is that doctors may prescribe more standard medications that they know are going to be in stock rather than have to spend time writing a different prescription if the one they prescribed is not available.  Patients will also have to say which pharmacies they want the prescriptions sent to.

Health records continue to be moved into the electronic realm.   Hospitals and doctors’ practices are setting up patient portals for patients to access their medical records, appointments, test results, and even send messages to their health-care practitioners.  Some patients have balked though because of the highly publicized theft of data from insurance companies like Anthem.

As care becomes more coordinated, doctors, hospitals, and other providers want to have access to a patient’s records if several are providing treatment in the same network.   The medical providers  and their patients will be able to easily access the list of medications a patient is taking along with test results and notes from a visit to other medical providers.

Community Caregivers Inc. is a not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services, including transportation, and caregiver support at no charge to residents in Guilderland, Bethlehem, Altamont, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, and the city of Albany through a strong volunteer pool of dedicated individuals with a desire to assist their neighbors.  To find out more about our services or our volunteer opportunities, please visit www.communitycaregivers.org or call (518) 456-2898.

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— Photo by Greg Goutos
All smiles: James Gray, a Guilderland honors student, serves a drink to Omni resident Elsa Butrym.

Community Caregivers hosted a special Italian-style dinner for the residents of the Omni Senior Living Community on Carman Road in Guilderland on March 19.  The community room was filled with smiles and laughter, as the residents gathered for this annual event.

This was the 15th year the event has been held, and this year students from the Guilderland High School National Honor Society were on hand to help serve the dinner.  Over 60 residents from the Omni attended.

The event was sponsored by Community Caregivers, a Guilderland-based, not-for-profit organization that provides non-medical services to Albany County residents by matching local volunteers with nearby clients.   

The community room was decorated to reflect the theme for this year’s dinner, which was “You Are the Stars.”  Over the years, there has developed a great fondness between those who have helped organize and serve the dinner, and the many residents of the Omni who look forward to attending it year after year.

Many comment that it is one of the highlights of the year for those at the Omni.  This year’s theme echoed the feeling that the seniors are truly stars in the eyes of the event organizers; however, the appreciation for those involved with sponsoring the dinner is also very evident.

The evening began with welcoming comments, and then a brief overview of the types of services and programs that Community Caregivers offers.  It was noted that several in attendance have either served as volunteer providers for the organization, or as clients that receive direct services.  Community Caregivers was founded in Altamont in 1994, and has offices located at 2021 Western Ave. in Guilderland.Altamont in 1994, and has offices located at 2021 Western Ave. in Guilderland.

A special highlight of the evening was celebrating the tremendous efforts of the Quinn family who have organized all the details for the event for many years.  The Guilderland family has been involved with the dinner for more than 10 years, and parents Suzanne and Kevin have inspired their two teenage boys to take the lead during that time.

Sean and Conor have developed into truly remarkable young men who are shining as examples of what it means to serve as volunteers in their community.  Since Sean will soon be graduating from Guilderland High School and going off to college, Community Caregivers wanted to take this opportunity to thank them by presenting both Sean and Conor with framed certificates of appreciation.  As the two were congratulated when receiving their honors, those in attendance enthusiastically applauded as they recalled watching them both grow up over the years.

After the dessert was served, the evening’s festivities continued with the random drawing of prizes, all of which were donated by local businesses.  Excitement was in the air as the lucky recipients waited to hear if their names would be called, and to enjoy a gift presented to them by one the members of the National Honor Society.  Others at their tables were fortunate to take home the centerpiece vases, which were filled with decorative stars attached to flower stems to reflect the theme of the event.

A special thank-you goes to the 13 volunteers who participated, including student, Sean and Conor Quinn, Alec Betancourt, Jason Falvo, James Gray, Hayli Bazan, Catherine Seita, and Mohona Sengupta.  Adult volunteers included Suzanne and Kevin Quinn, and Nellie and Greg Goutos.  Mary McGann, a resident of the Omni, deserves special recognition for once again serving as the site coordinator.

All the food for the dinner was generously donated by several area restaurants.  Special thanks to:  The 99 Restaurant on Wolf Road, Bountiful Bread, Ciao Italia Restaurant, Paesan’s Pizza, TGI Fridays, Milano Pizza, Via Fresca Italian Gourmet Market, and Marotta’s Towne Pizza.  Also, Price Chopper, ShopRite and Hannaford Supermarkets.  And to Stewart’s for donating the ice cream for dessert.

Prizes were donated by the following local businesses:  Carman Wine & Liquor, Candy Kraft, Robinson’s Hardware, The Pottery Place, Bamboo Restaurant, and The Altamont Enterprise.

For more information about Community Caregivers, please contact the office at 456-2898, or online at communitycaregivers.org.

Editor’s note: Greg Goutos is a longtime Community Caregivers volunteer.

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Most junior and senior boys are studying for the new SATs, waiting to hear from colleges, trying to find jobs, and maybe figuring out who they want  to take to the junior prom and the senior ball. Conor, and Sean Quinn, 16 and 18 respectively, are doing all these things plus one other pretty big activity: They’re in charge of putting together a pasta dinner for 50.

The dinner is for the residents at the Omni Senior Living Community in Guilderland on March 19. And for the last three to four months the brothers have done all the work.

They begin by contacting Community Caregivers who sponsor the dinner and prepare the letters the boys send out to vendors for raffle items, decoration materials, and the food: salads, rolls and butter, pasta with sauce, and desserts. Any furniture, silverware, trays, etc. come from Altamont Reformed Church where Greg Goutos, a longtime volunteer with Community Caregivers,  has connections

This year, four or five  students from the Guilderland High School Honor Society  will help serve. Tyler Mazone, clarinetist, has asked the boys if he can provide entertainment.

Conor says, “Tyler is a happy, upbeat person, full of enthusiasm. We like people like this — happy — to be a part of the event.

The boys’ mom, Suzanne Quinn, says her sons have been in charge for the last two to three years, and she’s very proud of that fact.

As Conor reflects on the work they do, he says some parts are hard. “Lots of businesses give to a lot of organizations. They don’t all say, ‘Yes, we’d love to help.’ We do what we have to do.

But, he says he isn’t discouraged. Sean explained that the day before the dinner the tables and chairs, table settings, decorations — all the physical stuff — are dealt with.  The day-of, they spend time getting the food and getting it heated. And, yes, Mom makes meatballs and extra sauce.

What do these guys do for work and fun and what are their future plans? Sean does odd jobs such as walking dogs and mowing lawns. And, he’s a scuba diver. Two years ago, he went to Bali and, aside from diving, he also taught kids English for three weeks in July. As a senior, he’s waiting to hear from colleges and is interested in history.

“History has always fascinated me,” he said. He wants to make history “usable, applicable. Why does this matter?”

Conor does a lot of volunteer work. At Whispering Willows Wild Care, he helps animals get back into the wild. He mentioned hawks, owls, and kestrels as a few of the creatures the organization has rehabbed. But he’ll do anything there like providing water, cleaning cages, talking to them.

“I love to bond,” he adds.

Since he was 15, he’s volunteered  at Homeward Bound in Schenectady. This place helps dogs get adopted, and he does whatever they ask him to do.  Right now, he’s hoping to get his real first time job at a doggie day-care business. And you guessed it, for his future he’s looking at a career dealing with animals.

When the boys began their connection with this dinner, they were  “unofficial mascots.” They went around hugging people and being cute. As they grew older, they talked with the residents and listened to their stories.

Sean says, “I’ve always loved storytelling because it’s entertaining and a good way to connect with people.”

As the years went on and he got to know the people, he realized the residents were part of his community and also his friends

“It feels good.” And he concludes, “Satisfaction comes from helping people.”

Conor says now that they’re older, one of the responsibilities he and his brother take on is seeing that the Omni  residents are comfortably seated. Some are in wheelchairs so the boys help them get situated.

He says, “We try to make sure everyone is comfortable and well fed.” As with the animals he works with, Conor likes to bond with people, too. “I like to  help people and make them smile.”

Community Caregivers has been fortunate to have this family as volunteers. With Sean off to college next year, he can’t predict  his involvement with the dinner. What we can predict is these two guys will move through life with some pretty strong volunteering skills and love of helping their neighbors.  Mom has taught her sons well.

 

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