Project OASIS (Older Adults Sharing Important Skills) was originally funded by the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health and the Austin Charitable Trust. The purpose of this project is to address the chronic and increasing mental health needs of elderly residents in nursing homes. The project involves the training and on-going support of older adults as paraprofessional mental health volunteers in nursing care facilities.
The paraprofessional services provided by these volunteers start at the level of friendly visiting. Volunteers encourage isolated, withdrawn residents to reminisce about their past, to talk about themselves, their families and their problems. As the volunteers gain experience, confidence and competence in their skills, they progress to a level of peer counseling; actively listening, observing and assessing mental health needs of the residents to when they are assigned. In time, volunteers begin to reach out to other residents as they recognize the needs of individuals and the nursing home community as a whole. While some volunteers continue to work primarily on a one-to-one basis with individuals, others begin to incorporate their skills into forming discussion groups, exercise groups and to provide patient advocacy roles for residents with specific problems.
After initial volunteer recruitment, the training lasts five weeks. A six-hour session is held each week. The initial training sessions deal with counseling skills, including active listening, open-ended questioning and interviewing skills especially related to working with the elderly.
Monthly in-service training is provided on therapeutic techniques commonly used with the older population. These techniques include reality orientation, remotivation, oral history, life review, art therapy, music therapy, and fantasy therapy. Special mental health problems covered are depression, loss and grief, confusion, disorientation, and Alzheimer’s Disease, as well as dealing with uncooperative behavior.
OASIS Projects in Dallas (3), Fort Worth (1), Austin (1), Houston (1) and Bryan/College Station (1) involve over 120 Older Adult volunteers. In the 10 years that Project OASIS's have been organized, over 30,000 volunteer hours have been given in Texas nursing homes
Last updated: 26 July, 2010
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