Older program participants/care receivers benefit directly in a number of ways including knowing they have a place to turn to for support. Thirty-five percent of Saratoga County's 65+ population has one or more chronic disabling conditions. Many are frail with functional needs that require assistance from others. Via volunteer assistance with transportation to medical services and shopping they have opportunities to get out into the community to secure important support. Through a call or visit from a volunteer they have someone to chat with, provide companionship and socialization, all of which contribute to positive mental health. This is especially important to those who live alone. Their quality of life is enhanced through Care Links.
Family caregivers, including spouses, adult children and siblings, view the Care Links volunteers as a source of respite and an extra set of hands. Volunteers can run to the store, make phone calls, transport to a doctor's office, or just be there to listen, itself an invaluable stress reliever for family caregivers. As one family caregiver described Care Links, "It gives me a life." Support groups also allow family members a safe place to discuss the stresses and challenges of caregiving as well as learn from the experiences of others with similar responsibilities. A study by AARP New York estimated the value of the care 4.1 million families in New York provide to their loved ones to be $32 billion. Care links volunteers play a role in bolstering families' efforts, preventing them from being overwhelmed and thus hopefully continuing their important work.
Employers also benefit. Research has shown that almost a third of the workforce is engaged in caregiving responsibilities that could have a potential negative impact on productivity. Caregivers often need to rearrange their work schedules, work fewer than normal hours, and/or take unpaid leaves of absence. This results in an interrupted workday. Care Links volunteers' presence could lessen the potential for workplace interruptions.
The tax-paying public and the more costly publically supported formal agencies which otherwise might have to provide services to program participants also benefit. The availability of Care Links volunteers often lessens and/or delays the need to initiate more costly formal agency-based services.
Last but not least, the volunteers benefit in giving back to their neighbors and promoting community well-being. They make a real difference in the lives of others and often form bonds with care receivers that go beyond the volunteer role.