Volunteer Spotlight: Arlington County Volunteer Guardianship Program
What motivates a person to commit to a long-term, often undefined volunteer opportunity? For Volunteer Guardian Brad Niesen, “my daughter, an elder care attorney, approached me with the concept of becoming a volunteer guardian. She knew that I had been providing full care for an aging neighborhood couple, so she thought I should apply those lessons-learned to Arlington County’s volunteer guardianship program.”
Brad is one of 25 volunteers in the Arlington County Volunteer Guardianship program who has been screened and trained to serve as a court appointed guardian. These substitute decision makers serve adults who have no one else to ensure their health, safety and well-being is protected. Without the support of these guardians, the neighbors that we serve would be highly susceptible to exploitation, abuse or worse.
Brad was appointed guardian in June of 2014. As is most often the case, Brad had very limited knowledge of the person he was now appointed to serve but viewed this as an opportunity to learn about the needs and preferences of the individual he supports through this role. “I assumed my role and began the fundamental task of building the relationship with my person under guardianship. Not everyone will approach that task in the same manner, but in my case, it meant frequent visits, regular food snacks (yep… it’s called currying favor) and honest dialog. Simply telling someone what they want to hear doesn’t build trust. Honesty delivered compassionately earns trust and respect.”
The role of a volunteer guardian may be challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding and impactful. “I strive for a balance between assertiveness, compassion, and friendship. There are probably many ways to approach this opportunity, but I have found that simply being a trusted friend allows me the space for honest dialog and tough decisions. Alleviating stress and anxiety from my friend is a valuable reward.
Thank you, Brad, and ALL the volunteer guardians, for all that you do to improve the quality of life for a neighbor in need.
To learn more about volunteer guardians and other volunteer and internship opportunities for individuals interested in working with older adults or persons with disabilities visit https://aging-disability.arlingtonva.us/volunteers/.