C2R Virtual Visits
Who we are
Conversations to Remember is a nonprofit organization that arranges for high school and college student volunteers to have weekly virtual visits with residents of senior living communities. There is no fee for any participant in the program. Our goal is simply to put a smile on the face of residents by showing them that we care. All residents are welcome to participate in this program, both those with dementia, and those who are not experiencing cognitive decline.
What we do
Conversations to Remember has a very different focus than other senior living activity programs. Our weekly virtual visits with your residents are not focused on the group, but, rather, individuals. Surveys show that more than 40% of seniors often experience feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not the state of being alone. It is a subjective feeling – the distress caused by feeling alone, even in a crowd. It is the difference between what a person thinks they have and what they want. Many seniors can get temporary relief from their loneliness by engaging in a large group activity. Others, though, require more personal, extended interaction. This is just as important for their mental state as exercise is for their physical well-being. This is the gap that we’re filling.
Nothing can surpass the warm touch of a loved one to relieve the anxiety of being alone. Conversations to Remember is not competing with the residents’ families. How could we? We’re supplementing that love with the friendship and compassion of our volunteers. We’re adding one additional group of people – in addition to the resident’s family, and the caring staff in the communities that support them – who are interested in them, and happy to speak to them as long as they want. Care staff are not able to dedicate all of their time to a single resident, but they can assist the resident in beginning their visit with our volunteers, where the resident will experience two to three students who are there just for them.
Not all residents are looking for the same thing from our volunteers. Some residents want to actively lead the conversation, and tell the students all about their day and their life. In fact, if the students were ever to run out of questions for them, they’d want new students to teach. At the other end of the spectrum, some residents just want to join the students in their virtual chat, just listening to the students talk to each other about their lives, and occasionally participate with their own input. As part of our training, we teach our volunteers to recognize what the resident is looking for today – since they might have different interests today than last week – and to provide that type of conversation for the resident.
While we are oriented towards the individual resident, that doesn’t mean that our program is not scalable. Many of the communities that we deal with – be they assisted living residences, nursing homes, long-term care communities, skilled nursing facilities, memory care units, group homes, or continuing care communities – have multiple residents engaging in our visits at the same time. They have multiple visits per day. For those residents who can benefit from it, we provide multiple visits per week.
What we need from you
It should be noted that we do require the involvement of the senior living community with these visits. We’re looking for your assistance coordinating when the resident is available for their visits, as well as reminding them that their visit is approaching. Due to the cognitive decline that many residents are experiencing, they often require assistance starting their virtual visits, or reconnecting them if they accidentally hang up. While many residents may be able to conduct these visits without any assistance, we still require the commitment of the community to assist them if necessary. Unfortunately, we’re not able to accept residents into the program who do not have community support unless they have a private care giver assisting them.
Once a resident is enrolled in our program, we arrange for students to visit with them once a week, at a time that is convenient for the resident and their caregivers. Each visit will be scheduled with two to three students. Multiple students adds more variety to the conversation, and reduces the chances of awkward conversation moments when nobody has anything to say. In fact, we train our students to avoid these awkward moments through our training and practice calls. All new students are required to participate in our ‘mock call’ training, where they speak with a trainer who role plays as a resident. Only those students who are able to excel at this training are invited to sign up for visits with residents. This ensures that our students will be better prepared to engage in enjoyable conversation with any resident.
The C2R style of visit is intended to be low key. Students are trained that they are not to engage in interview style visits: they are not writing a book about the resident. Rather, they are here to share their own stories with the resident, just as much as they’re here to listen to the resident. This creates a low-pressure environment where the resident can be comfortable whether they’re “a talker” or just someone who wants to sip their tea and listen to the students talk about their lives. This allows a resident who is experiencing cognitive decline to comfortably participate in the conversation, even when they’re having more difficult days.
We require our students to allocate an hour to each visit that they participate in. That does not mean that the resident is obligated to spend an hour visiting with them, it just means that the student needs to be available. If the resident is only interested in visiting for ten minutes, then that is okay – the visit is for their benefit only and should not be a burden. If the resident wants to visit for over an hour, then we’ll work to arrange additional visits for them. Of course, if the students are available to speak for more than the hour that they’ve allocated, they are free to do so.