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5 Things You Might Not Know about Becoming a Senior Companion

Senior Companion Dorothy Lutz says her clients have become a part of her family—and she’s become a part of theirs. Warren Barlow enjoys assisting fellow veterans and hearing stories from different walks of life. They’re just two of many volunteers who selflessly serve older adults through Telespond’s Senior Companion Program in Lackawanna County. Our program aims to connect older adults with volunteers who offer a watchful eye, assistance with everyday tasks, and long-lasting friendship.

Perhaps you’re considering becoming a Senior Companion volunteer or know someone special who’d be perfect for the role, but you have a few questions. Maybe you’re uncertain if this type of thing is even for you. Below, you’ll find five things you might not know about becoming a senior companion, as well as how to connect with us to learn more about joining the team.

1. Companions work flexible hours.

Senior Companions can volunteer between five and 40 hours per week. Typically, volunteers visit around three clients, each once or twice per week for four-hour shifts. A typical shift runs between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. or 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Many of our volunteers even bring lunch to enjoy with their new friends.

2. Companions receive ongoing training and support.

Never worked or volunteered in elderly care before? Not to worry! Before meeting clients, volunteers undergo 24 hours of training as provided by program coordinator Nancy Grezenda. Once the initial training has been completed, Nancy matches new companions with clients and arranges “meet and greets” so they can get to know one another better. Once companions begin to regularly visit clients, they undergo additional training to stay in the program and maintain their volunteer position. This training is usually structured as monthly meetings, where guest speakers provide important information and interesting updates about senior care in Lackawanna County.

3. Companions keep seniors connected to the community.

While some clients are homebound and appreciate someone coming into their houses to visit every week, others also enjoy getting out into the community. Many visit local adult day care programs which welcome companions to come along. Companions and clients can also enjoy walks together and all types of outdoor activities. While companions cannot transport clients in their own vehicles, they are welcome to ride along on the county van to accompany clients to their doctors’ appointments, grocery store runs and tend to other errands.

4. Companions receive numerous benefits, including a monthly stipend.

To become a Senior Companion, individuals must meet the following requirements:

  • Be 55+ years old
  • Have an income of under $24,000 (one person) or under $32,100 (household)
  • Have a weekly availability of five hours or more

Once in the program, volunteers are eligible to receive a monthly, tax-free stipend. The stipend does not endanger any government programs such as tax rebates or PACE eligibility, and it will not impact high rise or public housing subsidies. In addition, companions are provided with benefits, holidays, and transportation reimbursement. Thanks to external funding sources, Telespond is able to offer these rewards to seniors while maintaining the companion program as a completely free service to seniors in Lackawanna County. And, of course, the greatest reward companions receive is connecting with clients and helping them to stay safe, social, and independent for longer in their own homes.

5. Companions don’t just help seniors.

For many families, the one to two days each week a Senior Companion visits allows for much-needed caregiver respite. Having a few hours to take care of other responsibilities or simply relax is especially helpful for family members who provide full-time or almost full-time care. Nancy shares:

“When a companion visits, it allows caregivers to clear their heads and get into another world for a few hours, so they can come back to loved ones somewhat refreshed. Our Senior Companions’ involvement benefits the families much more than they realize.”

If you’re over 55 years old and would be energized by helping older adults in Lackawanna County, please contact Nancy Grzenda, Program Coordinator to learn more about Telespond’s Senior Companion Program.

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