Seniors find companionship through program

By William Thompson

Tucumcari resident Marina Valverde, 88, gets a visit from Dora Anaya, 66, two hours a day, five days a week. Anaya enrolled in Quay County’s Senior Companions program four years ago. Valverde was her first client.
“Dora is like a relative to me now,” said Valverde. “We crochet together, we sing old spiritual songs like “Amazing Grace” together and she helps me cook sometimes.”
Anaya said she gets just as much out of the daily visits as Valverde. They don’t spend their two hours together watching television.
“She taught me how to make peanut brittle,” Anaya said. “We talk about old times, how people used to wash clothes on washboards and hang their wash out to dry.”
Lisa Young, coordinator for the Senior Companions program, said there are about 30 clients in Quay County and not all clients have to be elderly.
“The senior companions can make visits to anyone needing daily visits. For instance, a disabled child may need someone to visit with,” Young said. “Some of the elderly citizens may only have one family member in town and that family member is grateful to have someone to check in with their relative to make sure things are going well.”
Valverde has had heart trouble in the past and now has a sore knee. She said she appreciates Anaya’s visits because Anaya is able to help her get around the house, or even help her cook tortillas.
On days when Valverde is feeling better, the sky’s the limit when it comes to what she and Anaya can do together.
“On my off time, I can take Marina on outings as long as her family agrees to it,” Anaya said. “My other client has Parkinson’s disease, so I have to spend more time helping that client do things at home.”
Young said the Senior Companions program is always looking for volunteers. Those who enroll in the program are paid $2.65 per hour if they meet income eligibility requirements.
“If we had about four more senior companions, then I think we would be just about fully staffed,” Young said. “We also send senior companions to Laurel Hills Healthcare and Quail Ridge Assisted Living Center. When senior companions visit clients at nursing homes, they usually participate with the clients in group activities like bingo and arts and crafts.”
For elderly citizens needing companionship, Young said the daily visits from senior companions can often delay by years an elderly person’s placement in a nursing home.