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My JSSA Story: Irena, A Transitions Client

September 5, 2017
Clients / Hospice and Transitions
A volunteer from JSSA's Transitions program offers companionship to an elderly woman in a facility

At 86 years old, Irena* is thoughtful, sharp, and social. A child of Eastern Europe, she can still speak multiple languages yet struggles to converse with the other residents in her facility. Sadly, many of her neighbors aren’t quite at her cognitive level, and Irena spends much of her time people-watching in the reception area.

That’s why Tuesdays are Irena’s favorite day of the week. On Tuesdays, a Transitions volunteer named Ellen* comes to visit, offering Irena an hour of camaraderie and conversation. “I adore Ellen,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “She wants to know all the stories about my childhood and see all the photos of my family.”

Irena has a loving and devoted son who lives a few towns away. Unfortunately, his visits have become much more infrequent, as he’s dealing with health issues of his own. After each visit, Ellen reports back to the Transitions nurse coordinator, Kristin, who relays any updates or concerns about Irena’s health or wellbeing to her son.

“My son would be here more often if he could. I know he appreciates hearing from Kristin every month,” said Irena.

Although she’s wheelchair-bound now, Irena still loves music as much as she did when she was a dancer in her youth, so she and Ellen will sometimes listen to the iPod that Transitions provided to her as part of JSSA’s Music & Memory program. On it is an individualized collection of Yiddish and Russian folk songs that frequently puts Irena in the mood to reminisce.

“I know that Ellen is really a volunteer, but she is much more than that to me,” said Irena. “She is my friend, and I cherish her visits.”


Please consider making a contribution today to help more clients like Irena have the opportunity to reach their own milestones and enjoy some of life’s sweetest moments. Donate here.

*Names have been changed for privacy.
JSSA’s Transitions service, a pre-hospice support program, is available in Montgomery County, MD.

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