There are more than 300 people involved with volunteer programs at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services (SECS), helping out with nutrition, medical appointments and companionship, to name a few.
In honor of National Volunteer Month, SCES is highlighting some of our dedicated people who are doing important work in our community.
Tina Olton has been an SCES volunteer with the Medical Advocate program since 2016. We recently caught up with Olton to say thanks, and to ask a few quick questions…
Q Why did you start volunteering?
A When I retired, I tried volunteering for all sorts of different things. Regional parks, the children’s hospital, etc. Then I joined a program focused on elder abuse. Working with elders just stuck—it became my specialty. I moved here from the Bay Area a year ago, and wanted to do something similar.
Q What do you do?
A I’ve had 4 long-term clients who each have multiple medical issues. I accompany them to medical appointments, arrange for transportation, and schedule follow-ups. Before the appointment, we discuss questions they want to ask. I follow up afterwards to make sure the client understands what happened and what they should do as a result. When I visit a client, I’m looking at everything around. If there’s a change in their environment or in the people who are around them – I’m looking at their whole life. That certainly helps me understand who they are, and if they need other help.
Q What have you learned?
A I’ve learned how the medical piece affects the rest of my clients’ lives. I research diagnoses, to be sure that I understand everything. I have more empathy, patience, and attention to these conditions. Some of my clients’ medical conditions are so complex, and I should be able to help them through that.
Medical Advocates help individuals negotiate the healthcare system by providing emotional support. They empower individuals to be in charge of their doctor’s visits and treatments. For more information about the Medical Advocate program, or any of our other volunteer programs, call 617-628-2601, x3051 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.