Seniors, 60 years of age and over, are trained and placed as Senior Companions to homebound, frail, and other seniors, to enable independent living or to provide respite for the caretaker of a senior. George Hallett has volunteered in the Senior Companions Program since 1984. He has provided respite, companionship, and support to the families of more than 90 hospice and Alzheimer patients, four hours per day, five days per week. He develops a bond with his patients, and the support he provides does not stop when their life ends. Then, Hallett continues to provide strength and love for the surviving spouse or family members.
As our population ages, there is the definite problem of isolation. This is especially traumatic when one outlives a spouse and friends. In addition, in our mobile society, the older person will often face death alone in a hospital. They may also have one family member helping, but that is a duty so heavy it requires the community’s caring involvement. Hallett used to be a pastry chef on the Queen Mary ocean liner, and in addition to his companionship and respite, he creates special desserts to encourage a patient’s almost non-existent appetite.
The Senior Companion program is innovative in that it recreates the community web of support that used to be the norm. When someone is facing death, they do not look to technological advances or modern electronics; they desire a caring human person. This program taps into the skills, experiences, and wishes of senior citizens to safely help each other. Hallett goes above and beyond his duties. It is especially evident when he was able to reunite a couple. They simultaneously needed hospice care, and because of bureaucratic oversight, they had been separated. He was concerned with their emotional well being and spoke with the director of the hospice. His efforts resulted in them getting adjoining quarters.
The Senior Companion Program is recognized each year at various ceremonies, which give publicity to the program. Hallett willingly speaks at each banquet, and his story serves as an inspiration to others. His wife is totally bedridden, and he is able to provide assistance to others while her caretaker is in their home. Though he is challenged with the care of his wife, he still gives to others who are in need just as they are. Many other seniors have applied to serve in the program due to the example of Mr. Hallett.
In addition to working as a Companion since September of 1984, Hallett also has served on the Fresno/Madera Senior Companion Advisory Board.