Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Volunteers Advocate for Incapacitated Adults ; Guardianship Program Needs Helpers

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Volunteers Advocate for Incapacitated Adults ; Guardianship Program Needs Helpers

Article excerpt

Cindy Whittinghill said she was just answering a call when she first decided to volunteer with Guardianship Services nearly three years ago. Several years ago, her brother - a volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocate - told her she should volunteer. Whittinghill was interested in the concept of providing advocacy but didn't think children were a good fit for her. She told him that it sounded like a perfect thing if it involved older adults instead.

About five months later, information about Guardianship Services fell into her lap. It is an organization that provides temporary and permanent guardianship services and other law-related and case management services for incapacitated adults who are elderly and disabled.

"I said, 'OK, God, I get it,'" Whittinghill said. "And I realized this is what I needed to do. I think that when God gives you a talent you should use it to help others."

She is the registered nurse case manager with the Case Management Department at St. Mary's Medical Center.

Whittinghill said she has benefitted much more from her role as a volunteer with Guardianship Services than the adults, or protected people, who she serves. She currently serves as a legal guardian for two protected people and does everything from approving or overseeing changes in medication to financial decisions to ensuring they have all of their physical needs met.

"You have this person who is so frail, and in my case has dementia, and is unable to make decisions for themselves," she said. "It is your job to try to figure out what they would have wanted and make that decision for them. When you take someone who is so vulnerable and you help them, you are doing God's work. They can't tell you thank you, but you still know it means so much. It is the most rewarding thing you can do."

Arin Norris, executive director of Guardianship Services of Southwestern Indiana, said the organization is in dire need of volunteers. There are so many people in need of guardianship in the community yet they only have 14 volunteers and are able to serve 17. And although many of the volunteers are like Whittinghill and come from a social service background, Norris stressed that no prior experiences or education in that field is necessary.

"Anyone could do this," she said. "It takes someone who wants to touch someone's life and help advocate for someone in need."

All volunteers receive extensive training and have the support of the Guardianship board, filled with legal and medical experts, to turn for support when needed, she said. And the scope of work for the volunteer depends on what kind of commitment they are willing and able to do. Some of the protected people just need someone to act as a payee, a volunteer who manages the person's money. Some of the protected people are in a nursing home and others living in the community. …

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