JMU students lend a hand by providing respite care

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 6:32 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Friday was National Caregiver day and students from JMU’s Caregivers Community Network were out lending a hand by providing respite care.

The network provides two-hour sessions of care for clients older than 60 once a week to help give their caregivers a break. One such caregiver is Lousa Painter, who takes care of her husband Bill who has Parkinson’s Disease.

“It gives him somebody else for companionship because I’m around all the time. And it lets me if I want to take a two-hour block and go somewhere I can. If I want to go to Staunton I can do that, I can take a nap which is also very useful, I can do errands and stuff without thinking about what’s going on at home,” said Louisa Painter.

JMU students Alissa Kenney and Annie Jones have been working with Bill Painter for three weeks and they said it’s been great for everyone involved.

“Bill is great he’s super easy to talk to, he’s really funny, he’s also given us advice on a lot of things we’ve talked about that we’re stressed about in school and he’s told us that he’s praying for us a lot which means a lot,” said Jones. “Being a caregiver is definitely a lot of work and we realize how much Louisa really appreciates us coming. It’s just really fun for us to get to come and hang out and really get to know someone and learn from someone older.”

Jones said the idea of the program is to implement self-care for the clients through games and various activities.

“We like to start every visit with a refresh of the last week and what’s happened since we’ve last seen each other. Bill really likes storytelling so we’ve been telling stories at the beginning of each visit,” said Kenney.

Louisa Painter said that it’s been good to see her husband telling stories and that the program has been great for him.

“He’s looking forward to them coming and he’s really enjoying this time because it’s totally different from anything else,” she said. “Different ideas, different creativity, all of that has really kind of picked up his mental status.”

Jones and Kenney have already formed a bond with Bill and they all look forward to the weekly sessions.

“This has just been delightful. When I come in when they’re playing a game or whatever it’s obvious that he’s very much enjoying it,” said Louisa.

For the students, the program offers a great hands-on learning experience.

“Being able to help out Louisa and be there for Bill has just been absolutely amazing. This is definitely something I’m hoping to contribute to a future career of mine so it’s really just awesome to see how important and impactful us coming each week is,” said Jones.

The Caregivers Community Network is operated through a partnership between JMU and Valley Program for Aging Services. There are currently 28 students in the program. You can learn more about it here.