Viva Volunteers!

At memory care facility, they are essential members of the team.

On April 18, staff from Symphony at St. Augustine greeted the community’s volunteers at a luncheon to recognize those who give of their time and talents to care for the needs of Symphony’s residents. Symphony at St. Augustine is a community exclusively for seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss and other forms of dementia.

Tara Tosh and Anna Tenorio of Symphony at St. Augustine discuss the importance of volunteers, and Mary Beth Martin, Lynne Ford and Sheryl Anderson talk about volunteering at Symphony.

Volunteers Lynne Ford (left), Sheryl Anderson (center), and Mary Beth Martin (right) say interacting with residents inspires them.

“Our community works to build a strong network of people to provide the best care and highest quality of life for our residents,” states Anna Tenorio, memory support director at Symphony at St Augustine. “We rely heavily on our volunteers as part of that team.

“We work with all types of volunteers, from students to senior citizens, and every volunteer brings something different to our community. Our volunteers spend time with the residents and get to know them. They discover residents’ passions and talents and share them with the whole community.”

One of the ways the volunteers and staff at Symphony at St. Augustine bond with the residents is through the community’s holistic approach to caring for memory-impaired individuals. This approach is called In the Moment®.

In the Moment is based on six principles: physical engagement, spiritual support, artistic expression, community connections, continued education, and lifestyle and leisure,” relates Anna. “These principles are designed to meet residents in the moment they are experiencing for kind and compassionate engagement to guide them through their day.”

“In the Moment is just what its name says: It is a program for engaging the person with dementia according to what they are experiencing at that moment,” adds Tara Tosh, Symphony at St Augustine’s executive director.

“For instance, a woman who once had small children may be in the mindset of that point in time. If she is having maternal instincts at that moment, it can be soothing for her to go into an area, called a life station, where we have baby dolls, diapers and other items. She can care for the baby doll with a feeling of purpose.”

For In the Moment to be successful, Anna adds, the team must be engaged, and its members must also engage the residents and their families. Volunteers, she says, play a huge role in making this happen.

Volunteers at Symphony at St. Augustine perform many functions, and each one is critical to meeting all of the needs of the residents. Volunteers may perform simple tasks such as assisting residents during mealtimes. Residents may need help reaching for drinks, adding condiments to their food or using utensils.

“Others come in and play games with the residents or lead them in group activities,” notes Anna. “Playing cards with their children may have been their favorite thing to do at one time. It means so much to the residents when a volunteer comes in and simply plays cards and spends time one-on-one with them.

“No task is too small. Every little bit helps us meet our residents’ needs and makes their day. Volunteers bring smiles to their faces and make them feel like they belong to the community, a family.”

Volunteer Voices

Among the volunteers at Symphony at St. Augustine is Sheryl Anderson, who goes to the community twice a month to present a popular program on spirituality.

“It’s called The Spirituality of Connection, and I start it out by saying it has nothing at all to do with religion,” she elaborates. “Spirituality for me is defined as the connection with self, with others, with nature and with a higher power.

“I usually start out with some breathing techniques and movement exercises. I sometimes read to them. The residents love the book The Velveteen Rabbit, and there’s a part to that book that talks about what is real, and I read that part to them. They seem to understand what I’m saying on a deeper level than just words.”

Sheryl begins her program with light exercise, but fellow volunteer Mary Beth Martin gets the residents really moving.

“It’s a program called seated Zumba®,” she explains. “I have music the residents recognize from their era and sometimes they sing along, which is so much fun.

“I also have Latin music, which is what Zumba is based on. The residents have, over the months and over our sessions together, become so comfortable with the activity that it holds their attention for almost the entire hour. To see them react and move and sing is a real joy.”

Lynne Ford loves volunteering at Symphony so much she wishes she could work there. For now, she’s satisfied with volunteering twice a week.

Lynne has taken classes and attended seminars to learn about working with memory-challenged individuals, and Symphony was the perfect place to use her new skills. Now that she volunteers there, she truly appreciates the facility and its team.

“The more I find out about dealing with this segment of the population, the more interested I become,” she reports. “Symphony at St. Augustine is one mile away from my home, and they were building the facility while I was studying and researching. I thought, When I’m ready I’m going there. And I did.

“I believe In the Moment really elevates the care of people needing memory support to quite a high standard. Caring for them is a unique challenge, and Symphony has been thoughtfully designed and planned with heart. There are many individuals there who really care about the residents.”

Favorite Things

Musing about their time at Symphony at St. Augustine, Sheryl, Mary Beth and Lynne share some of what it is they like most about volunteering there.

Tara Tosh and Anna Tenorio of Symphony at St. Augustine discuss the importance of volunteers, and Mary Beth Martin, Lynne Ford and Sheryl Anderson talk about volunteering at Symphony.

Volunteers share a joyful moment at the luncheon to celebrate their contributions.

“The interaction with the residents is just so inspiring,” says Mary Beth. “And the staff is very welcoming. Anna is very sharp and efficient. She gets the residents together for us right on time, so we can start and get them engaged as soon as possible. Having Anna there to organize and welcome us is really a huge help.”

“My favorite thing is the response of the residents,” agrees Sheryl. “My husband is a resident there and when I go to visit him people ask, When is it time for you to come back? They seem to enjoy whatever happens when I’m there.

“Anna is just awesome, and she and I do well in terms of communication. When she comes in during a session, she just understands.”

“I’ve seen miracles,” reports Lynne. “I’ve seen people who were non-responsive become verbal. I’ve seen people who haven’t gotten out of their wheelchairs in I don’t know how long wiggling on the dance floor. I’ve seen people have moments of brightness toward the end of their lives. It amazes me.”

Tara is grateful for the Symphony at St. Augustine volunteers and the time they spend at the community. She knows the residents are, too.

“I’m sure everybody knows somebody who’s been affected by memory loss,” she states. “We need to come together as a team to care for them. At Symphony at St. Augustine, our volunteers are crucial members of that team.”

She adds that there is no special time commitment for volunteers at Symphony. They are free to choose how much time they spend at the community.

“Volunteers don’t have to put in eight-hour days,” relates Tara. “Even if they share two hours a month with us, they make an impact on how we care for our residents’ needs. After all, volunteering is not only good for the volunteers’ hearts, it’s good for our residents’ hearts as well.”

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      Symphony at St. Augustine is a world-class, memory care community nestled in a quietly convenient neighborhood near one of the most beautiful beaches in Florida. Residents enjoy an unrivaled attention to detail that is evident in everything f... Read More