Since 1983, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has supported interfaith, community-based volunteer efforts to care for those who suffer from chronic health conditions. Through its Faith in Action program, the Foundation has helped build more than 1,100 interfaith volunteer caregiving programs across the country.
One Faith in Action program in Florida provided care for Edith Feuerstein, a woman who has Alzheimer's disease, and respite for her husband Martin. Taking care of his wife at home left Martin with little time for himself and hardly anyone to talk to. Fortunately, Martin found both relief and a friend in Carolyn Rogers, a volunteer with the Alzheimer's Respite Care Program.
This Orlando-based Faith in Action group is a coalition of ten organizations, including several religious congregations. Its 150 volunteers provide relief to people like Martin who care for loved ones with Alzheimer's disease.
Carolyn visited the house once a week, helping to wash and dress Edith, occasionally sharing dinner with the couple, and giving Martin the gift of time, so that he could buy groceries, run errands, or have a few minutes for himself. As Martin explains, he often used this time just to 'take a deep breath.'
Over time, Carolyn and Martin struck up a friendship. 'I felt that I met a real need,' explains Carolyn. 'I came to love his wife and I also came to share the pain and loneliness he was experiencing.'
Recently, Edith was moved to a nursing home. But Martin and Carolyn still get together for lunch. 'Now I'm all by myself, and I don't have much company,' he explains. 'Carolyn is a big help when she talks to me. I don't think anybody could be nicer.'