Age Friendly Cold Lake (AFCL) is looking for volunteers now! They are expanding on their Friendly Visiting program by way of a Memorandum of Understanding with Nav-CARE and as a Community Ambassador to the Alzheimer’s Society.  

So, what is Nav-CARE? Nav-CARE is a national support program that puts trained volunteers with people and their families who may be experiencing quality of life concerns because of long term illness and/or declining health. These volunteers lead or “navigate” the clients by providing information, comfort, and companionship. 

Volunteer Navigators spend time with these clients and develop special relationships with them. It may be simply listening to their stories, doing a puzzle, taking a walk with them, or assisting them in daily activities. They might help them make difficult decisions about things like power of attorney, wills, or any other issue they may be facing. Volunteer Navigators “bring the community to them” by putting them in touch with services they may need, services they may not know are available to them. 

These volunteers also work with the families of the client to help prepare them for what changes may take place and what difficulties their loved ones may encounter because of their health. 

Nav-CARE defines their program as “Navigation – Connecting, Accessing, Resourcing and Engaging.” It was developed by experienced healthcare workers and has been successful in many cities and towns across Canada. 

According to the Nav-CARE manual, Volunteer Navigators are trained to “address quality of life concerns; advocate for clients and families; facilitate community connections; promote active engagement; and support virtual navigation.” The manual states Volunteer Navigators should “enjoy establishing long-term relationships; be good at problem-solving; be prepared to experience grief; and have strong people skills.” 

Volunteers are not healthcare providers—that is important to note. They will be a friend, a listener, they will provide information, and be there for emotional support for the client and their families. 

The training for these volunteers is done by a Nav-CARE Coordinator, who will prepare the volunteers for the duties of the job, make them familiar with the resources that are available to them and the client, and will be a support system for any difficulties that may arise.  

According to Cathy Aust, AFCL’s outreach coordinator, the Volunteer Navigators with AFCL will be coupled with a senior, many who may have lost a spouse and would greatly benefit from a companion. Many of these seniors have become socially isolated, are out of touch with the community and are experiencing poor quality of life. They are dealing with declining and serious health issues. 

Although all these seniors are considered in palliative care, Aust said, that does not mean all are at the end of their life. She gave the example of someone who had experienced a heart attack. They may require a palliative approach to care for the short term, but when they recover from the issues related to the heart attack, they will no longer need that level of care. 

Aust said the hope is that the Volunteer Navigators stay with a client long enough that if the situation does become long term or end of life, the volunteer will stay with the family and be supportive of both the client and the family.  

If you have a friend or family member experiencing declining health, AFCL would like to help. Please call 780-594-5666 for more information. 

If you are interested in becoming a Volunteer Navigator with AFCL and believe you have the qualities they are looking for, please call 780-594-5666. You will be performing a valuable service to the community and will be improving the life of a senior.