National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships
Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS)
David Sergent knows the importance of home—he plays an important role in helping to keep Veterans living in their own houses and communities as they age. As a volunteer for the Senior Companion Program of Action for Eastern Montana, Mr. Sergent works with Veterans in Montana, many who have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, to help with activities of daily living such as light cleaning, cooking, shopping, and offering these Veterans’ caregivers and families a chance to rest.
“What I try to do is keep them from going to a nursing home,” Mr. Sergent said. “It makes it so much easier if they get to stay in their own house.”
That mission is exactly what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has in mind as it has partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads national volunteering and service efforts. Through this partnership, volunteers like Mr. Sergent support VA’s Choose Home initiative, which allows Veterans who are at risk of moving into a nursing home or other institution to stay at home. CNCS provides support to VA’s Choose Home Pilot site and Action for Eastern Montana in Glendive, Montana.
He is not a Veteran, but several members of his family are, and he feels a strong connection to Veterans in his volunteerism.
“All the clients I work with, they’re not a client to me. They’re my friends and they’re family,” he said. His own father, he added, had Alzheimer’s disease and Mr. Sergent was able to care for him in his final years.
Many of his clients, who are Veterans in their 80s—Mr. Sergent is 65—have challenges with memory, but talk to Mr. Sergent of what they do recall from their time in service.
“Whatever they want to talk about, I don’t care what it is, we sit there and talk,” he explained. “We don’t just sit there and watch TV; sitting in a house watching TV is not socializing.”
Mr. Sergent still connects with his clients even during the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic; he talks with them over the phone, or meets with them while wearing a mask if the Veteran’s family is comfortable, and has spent extra time at a client’s home when his family member needed more assistance.
“If you go to work and love what you’re doing, you’re not working,” he said.
The VA-CNCS partnership is an interagency collaboration coordinated in part by the VHA Office of Community Engagement (OCE). Heather Luper, social work program manager for OCE, said:
“This partnership meets the needs of Veterans, their caregivers, and community volunteers alike. I am especially impressed with the creativity and commitment of the volunteers—some of whom are Veterans themselves—during these difficult times.”
OCE is VHA’s resource for establishing and growing nongovernmental partnerships that benefit Veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors. For more information on OCE’s partnership work, please visit VA.gov/healthpartnerships.
Posted December 11, 2020