Candy Feinstein lost both her mother and father to Alzheimer’s Disease, and her husband has been living with the progressive disease since 2008. In the face of her very personal struggles with the devastating disease, the 68-year-old has extended her hands and heart to others, filling a gap in support for her greater community.
As a volunteer support group facilitator for the Alzheimer’s Association, Candy, a resident of Davis, Illinois, is offering vital support to Alzheimer’s and dementia patient caregivers who are desperate for help. Describing a dearth of resources across rural America, worsened by a lack of funding for medical care, Candy is a dedicated advocate who connects caregivers within her rural community.
What inspires you to volunteer?
After losing my mother and father, and then my husband’s diagnosis, I just needed support. I needed somebody else to talk to that was going through what I was going through, and I knew there was nothing in this area. I got busy and found the Alzheimer’s Association, and my volunteerism took off from there.
Describe your volunteerism with the Alzheimer’s Association.
As a volunteer support group facilitator, I organize our monthly group meetings and promote them on social media. Family, friends and Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are welcome at the meetings, most of us are caregivers for parents or spouses. I also serve as an ambassador for the organization and share information and resources about the disease.
Part of your service is as a volunteer ambassador. Tell me more.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a wonderful, wonderful network of people. It’s such a force. I’ll listen to people talking about their family members, and I’ll hand them an Alzheimer’s Association card, even in Walmart or the grocery store. I’ll tell them, when it’s 4 a.m. in the morning, and you’re crying with (your loved one), call (Alzheimer’s Association).
Share one personal story with me from your volunteerism.
We had a new fellow join our group, he came from about 40 miles away, and his mother is in a declining state with Sundowner’s syndrome. He and his brother are her caregivers, and he is trying to feel his way along, find support and find out what’s next. He seems truly helped and inspired (by our group). It makes me feel so fulfilled, so rewarded, so full of love and happiness that I’m able to give someone else comfort. And it’s certainly not just me. We share support as a group.
Why do you think it’s important for others to give back?
We need to help one another. We are all in this together. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are truly an epidemic, and it’s getting worse every day. Most of us can’t afford to put our loved ones in an institution, or wouldn’t even if we could afford it. We need to know we’re not in this alone, to know there’s someone close, that I can pick up the phone and tell them, I’m having a really hard day, can you just come and sit with me?
What’s been the most rewarding part of your service?
It’s rewarding being there. Being able to hug somebody when they’re having a bad day. I’ve found this group of people are real huggers, and I am, so it works out real well (laughs.)
How have you continued to volunteer throughout the COVID-19 pandemic?
Before the pandemic, we were meeting in-person, but we established a virtual monthly meeting once the pandemic started. We became a Zoom generation (laughs.) For people my age it’s a little bit more difficult to get to the point where we feel comfortable with that, but we managed! We are meeting in-person once again.
What do you want people to learn from your story?
Pay it forward. I certainly think that helping other people has helped me cope in my life. Volunteering makes me feel worthwhile, like there’s a purpose and a reason. I love helping other people. I love making other people smile.
In one word, what does volunteering mean to you?
Everything. I volunteer for other causes in my community, including the Alzheimer’s Association.
How can readers help?
Please visit the Alzheimer’s Association website for more information about how you can help.
Do you want to make a difference in your community like Candy Feinstein? Find local volunteer opportunities.