The Unconditional Love of Volunteers
Lindsey Fossum witnessed the trauma of memory loss firsthand with her grandfather. At the time, she had no idea that this difficult experience would ultimately lead her to a career working with people with Alzheimer’s Disease and various forms of dementia.
Yet it did, and Lindsey found herself at Rakhma Homes in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Rakhma Homes, a nonprofit, provides a safe home for those affected by Alzheimer's-Dementia.
“I envisioned a home like this for my grandfather,” Lindsey says about Rakhma Homes. “A warm, friendly home – Rakhma has actual homes, not nursing homes – with loving staff for their residents.”
What Lindsey means is that Rakhma's homes are in residential neighborhoods and are similar to the houses many of the residents grew up in. Rakhma currently has three homes, where residents come together for three meals a day (family style), cultural outings such as trips to the theatre, and in-home activities such as tai chi (pictured below).
Because of limited resources, Rakhma Homes relies heavily on volunteers. Some escort Rakhma residents on community outings, such as pushing their wheelchairs through an apple orchard or through a museum. Others conduct workshops, which include musical therapy, pet therapy, and worship. Still others help with meals and cleaning, and give manicures to the lady residents.
One volunteer that stands out to Lindsey is Sharon. Sharon comes in every Wednesday and plays piano and sings for the residents. Even those who have lost their ability to communicate still tap their feet along to Sharon’s music. “It’s amazing to see the friendship between Sharon and the Rakhma ladies,” says Lindsey. “They have a deep, spiritual love for one another.”
With the help of VolunteerMatch, Rakhma Homes receives inquires almost daily from potential volunteers. Lindsey mentions one particular volunteer, Teresa, who came to Rakhma through VolunteerMatch. “Teresa has such a bright smile,” says Lindsey. “Our residents enjoy her visits whether it’s crafts, games, or simple one-on-one conversations.”
“Volunteering with someone who has Alzheimer's disease or dementia can be difficult because they might not recognize you on your weekly visits”, explains Lindsey. Yet, the volunteers keep coming back. To Lindsey, the volunteers at Rakhma Homes are living examples of the organization’s name – Rakhma translates to unconditional love.
“Working with memory loss isn’t the most glamorous line of work”, says Lindsey. “But seeing our volunteers brightening our residents’ day makes it all worth it.”