Lori's Hands college student volunteers provide in-home support to people with chronic illnesses like cancer, MS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and heart failure. While our students assist with grocery shopping, yard work and other tasks made difficult by disease, clients provide valuable insights into the human experience of chronic illness. Students serve through the student club and through service learning classes. In both cases, their volunteer experiences are life-changing parts of their academic careers, preparing them to be compassionate, informed professionals.
One Lori's Hands client was an active businessman who loved to cook, host friends, and watch sports in his free time, until he incurred a traumatic brain injury. He now lives with his elderly mother who cares for him twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. The pair moved to Delaware from out-of-state because of the lack of social services and healthcare resources available in their previous community. While they now have excellent medical care, they felt very isolated for months after their move. They didn't know anyone in Delaware and found it hard to meet people as they are hardly able to leave the house due to his mobility issues and equipment needs. Our client's mother said that the day our students came for the first time felt like "the windows and doors flew wide open and the sun started streaming in again." She said that in addition to the tangible support the students provide around the house, they have been an important connection to the community and the "outside world" for both of them.
Another Lori's Hands client is a widowed Korean war veteran. Due to the layout of his apartment and his combat-related disability, he has been homebound for fifteen years. Lori's Hands students come to help him with household chores, but also spend part of every visit making conversation and swapping stories. This client reports that the Lori's Hands volunteers are his only consistent friendly visitors. This client reports that the students have, "renewed [his] faith in the youth of America" and have given him something to look forward to again.
While students' primary purpose is support with tangible in-home chores, many students take it upon themselves to assist clients with accessing community resources. For example, one student visited a 92-year-old homebound woman with heart failure and diabetes on a weekly basis for three years. While he and his peers consistently completed her grocery shopping, they often filled additional roles for her, such as assisting with phone calls to healthcare providers. When she was taken by ambulance to the emergency room, her student volunteers met her there to help her navigate the confusion of a hospital admission, which was challenging due to her poor hearing. The student ensured that she had proper discharge instructions, picked up her new prescription post-discharge, and otherwise ensured a more successful and less stressful experience for her. This is one example of many instances of Lori's Hands students serving as advocates, navigators, and non-clinical caregivers to their clients. Students have identified and helped address financial elder abuse, supported a 90-year-old wife through the last days of her husband's life, and served as "sous chefs" to a 54-year-old MS patient who was able to return to his beloved hobby of cooking with the support of students in the kitchen.
Lori's Hands transforms students' understanding of community health by matching them with individuals living with chronic illness in meaningful, helping relationships. Community members receive in-home support and, in turn, educate next-generation health leaders about the experience of living with chronic illness.