Imagine, if you will, finding yourself in a situation where you are now 80 something years old, in poor health, on a very fixed income, and you’re wading through stacks of paperwork for insurance purposes and to gain access to services you desperately need. Now add to that stress living in a culture and environment in which you did not grow up. Perhaps you moved to another country when you were an adult, but your brain has atrophied and your memories take you back to your homeland and your first language. Maybe you learned enough of a second language that you were comfortable in casual conversations, but now you need more than that.
Growing older comes with enough challenges but communication becomes even more difficult when you are ill and trying to access help in your second language. Sometimes there are family members who are available to assist, but not always.
Many times social workers will call HFM with a referral. The social worker will give us a name and address in which to send an assessment, or they will just give us a name and phone number and ask us to call the client who is in need of help. When I call the client, he/she may or may not remember that the social worker had made the referral. Remember, these are frail seniors who may be challenged with dementia and/or many other health issues. When I call and the client struggles with English it becomes even more imperative that we find someone who can speak directly to the client in the client’s first language.
Maria Temponi is a HFM volunteer who helps us bridge the communication gap with our Spanish-speaking clients. Maria not only gets the information we need, but also is serving some of the same individuals with respite care and advocacy. We need more volunteers like Maria who are willing to share their gifts of culture and language in order to help our frail seniors who come from so many different countries and backgrounds. Do you have some time to help others in need? They sure do need you! www.hartfelt.org