By: Sergio Santolo
I volunteer for the Hospital Elderly Life Program, an initiative started to help prevent the development of delirium among elderly patients. Delirium is a state that some individuals develop once they’ve been in the hospital for an extended amount of time and have no real source of cognitive stimuli.
As volunteers, we visit different patients and speak with them about how their day is going, the weather and their interests; we also guide them through a range of motion exercises, and if necessary, any sleep promotion techniques.
At first, it was quite unsettling to think about going to a stranger’s bedside to engage in conversation. I didn’t feel like I would know how to interest them enough to speak with me, let alone actually want to spend any time with me. I admit, I was a bit nervous to visit my first patient, but I’m glad I did.
I feel very fortunate to have the ability to volunteer with such a meaningful and goal driven program. I began my experience with the program by shadowing an experienced Team Leader, where I observed how they interacted with different patients. What I’ve learned and continue to learn from my time volunteering is irreplaceable. We all face our battles in our everyday lives that make it extremely important to be mindful, kind, and compassionate when interacting with others. You truly never know what someone’s gone through, is currently going through, or will go through, so the impact you have on them can mean all the difference.
One of the very first patients I visited was an elderly man who was hospitalized for a fall. He was super energetic, positive, and truly joyful. His perspective on life was simple. He told me that life is full of unexpected surprises; some may be bad, some may be good, but nonetheless, each experience offers a new opportunity to learn. The way he demonstrated such joy and positivity despite his situation was a lesson in itself. This man, whom I am very grateful to have met, simply taught me that life is invaluable and we must use every opportunity given to us to grow.
Sergio Santolo blogged for the Student Success Centre from 2017 to 2018.