Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Volunteer Caregivers

Contributed by: Deanna Leyh

Sometimes as a caregiver you may need a bit of time for yourself, whether it’s time for you to go to the doctor, time to run errands, time to get your hair cut, or even just time to relax and take a break from caregiving. And if you don’t have a lot of money laying around to hire someone to give you a break, getting a volunteer caregiver may be the right option for you! A volunteer caregiver is a community member (often trained in how to handle people with various disorders or dementias) who volunteers their time to come to your home to be a companion and take care of your loved one so that you can do other things.

While volunteers don’t help with medical needs or personal care needs, they do help with:
  • Grocery shopping
  • Running errands
  • Reading
  • Light meal preparation
  • Light housework
  • Companionship
  • Talking with the loved one
  • Transportation to doctors appointments
  • Snow shoveling/leaf raking
  • Other services
Volunteers are also often trained in how to handle people with various disorders or dementias. Typically they will come one to two scheduled times a week for 2-4 hours. Below we have listed some volunteer caregiver programs in our area that may be able to help give you a break!

1. Allegheny County’s Senior Companions Program:

Senior Companion volunteers provide regular visits and assistance to older adults, 60 years of age and older, in their home. Volunteers may help with simple daily activities, serve as an escort for shopping, medical, or social outings, or provide caregiver relief. These in-home visits are also an opportunity to check on the well-being of older adults during emergencies such as extremely hot or cold weather and power outages. If you’re interested, visit their program brochure.

2. Highmark PALS Volunteer Program:

Highmark PALS is a volunteer program that also provides any member with Highmark Blue Shield medical coverage and Medicare needing assistance with every day tasks. Volunteers will come to your home one to two times a week for a few hours at a time to help give you a break, sit with your loved one, running errands, etc. If you’re interested, visit their program brochure.

3. Open Your Heart to a Senior Program:

Open Your Heart to a Senior is a United Way initiative that trains and mobilizes volunteers to assist the elderly so that they can continue to live safely at home and so that their caregivers can get a much-needed break. In Allegheny County this program is also known under the name "In Service of Seniors." The United Way contracts with local non-profit agencies including North Hills Community Outreach, Family Services of Western PA, and Faith in Action to match volunteers with older adults needing assistance. Volunteers can help with companionship, transportation to doctor appointments, grocery shopping, and more. If you’re interested, visit their website or call 2-1-1.


Remember—it’s OKAY to ask for a break! As a caregiver, you have to take care of yourself first in order to continue to care for your loved one. There are people out there ready and waiting to help you take care of you!

*Updated 8/7/15