Lee Newell: I Got Into Volunteering To Make A Difference in Someone’s Life
Lee Newell volunteers weekly as a Care Buddy, reaching out and helping forgotten seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease who are living alone.
In Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties, an estimated 10,000 individuals afflicted with Alzheimer’s Disease live alone and are at high risk for self-neglect, self-harm, abuse, exploitation and isolation. The Live Alone program addresses the special needs of this population by coordinating an informal network of care partners including healthcare and social service providers, family members, friends and neighbors to provide a safety net.
A volunteer in the program since 2014, Lee was recently honored with the Florida Power & Light Company Community Service Award, which was presented during Area Agency on Aging’s 26th Annual Prime Time Awards Breakfast.
Lee got the award for her commitment to service as well as for her benevolence and inspiration to others.
Here’s her story.
The elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease had all sorts of problems in her small apartment, from leaky windows to the backdoor not closing property.
She had no one to turn to for help -- until she met Lee Newell, the woman’s Care Buddy.
Lee’s job as a volunteer is to check on her regularly and make sure she is doing OK.
So Lee contacted the woman’s case manager at Alzheimer’s Community Care in West Palm Beach and got workers to fix the woman’s apartment.
“I can’t tell you how good it felt for me to help her out,” Lee said.
Lee has done a lot of volunteering in the Alzheimer’s disease community over the years.
There’s a good reason for this. The disease has deeply impacted her family. Her mother suffered from it. So did her aunt. And so did her uncle.
An administrative assistant for much of her life, and now retired in Palm Beach County, she has devoted a lot of her time now to working as a Care Buddy and supporting Alzheimer’s Community Care by doing various office projects.
She got involved as a way to give back for the assistance she got in an Alzheimer’s support group while she was a caregiver for her mother.
“In this group, I learned that I wasn’t alone and I learned how to be patient with my mother. I found comradery and gained so much just by listening to others tell their stories,” Lee said.
After her mother passed away, Lee became a Care Buddy.
It was a perfect fit. Her job is to provide emotional support and connectivity to several elderly people with Alzheimer’s who are isolated from their families and community. She has built trusting relationships with them by maintaining weekly phone contact in which she simply asks questions about their eating, sleeping, families, TV shows – or any other topic to engage in conversations.
“So many of the people I talk to are forgotten. Their spouses have died and their families are somewhere else. They are all alone,” Lee said. “I got into doing this to make a difference, a real difference, in the life of someone.”
Lee expects to keep volunteering for as long as she can.
“I love it. Volunteering is important no matter what you do,” she said.