We are endlessly grateful to our volunteers for giving their time to better the lives of those impacted by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Our volunteers are truly the heart of the Alzheimer’s Association here in North Carolina.
In honor of National Volunteer Week 2022, we’ll be spotlighting a different volunteer from our Chapter each day. Today we are featuring…
JANELI MCNEAL, MSW
What brought you to volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association?
I am a social worker with the Duke DEMENTIA Family Support Program, and I was connected to the Association in 2015 when I received facilitator training for an educational support group that we have hosted in partnership with the Association since spring 2012. Our similar goals of providing education, support and engagement opportunities to those impacted by a memory loss diagnosis made volunteering for the Alzheimer’s Association a perfect match.
What volunteer role(s) do you have with the Association?
There are two support groups that the Duke DEMENTIA Family Support Program offers in partnership with the Association. Memory Makers: An Early-Stage Educational Support Group focuses on providing education and support to those who are living in the early-stages of a memory loss diagnosis and their care partners. The second group, Younger-onset Support Group, for those diagnosed with memory loss age 65 and younger and their care families, this group offers simultaneous meetings for both care partners and persons living with the diagnosis.
What do you enjoy most about your volunteer role?
I truly enjoy the work that I do with families, most importantly, those who are living with memory loss who have few opportunities for support, connectivity and education. Most programs aim to support family caregivers, and as important as that is, it’s equality important to provide services to those who are living with memory loss. Our program offers tailored support groups to meet the various needs of caregivers. My volunteer role with the Association has helped increase awareness of dementia and allowed us to serve more families.
[Learn more about a special educational opportunity on May 12 for those impacted by younger-onset Alzheimer’s being hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association and the Duke DEMENTIA Family Support Program.]
What piece of your role do you feel makes the biggest impact?
The biggest impact is seen in the groups that we facilitate. The relaxed shoulders when others see that they are not alone, the head nods when participants share the everyday challenges and triumphs, and the laughter that is shared in spite of the diagnosis. There is value in providing a safe and confidential space to connect to others impacted by a shared experience.
If someone were considering volunteering with the Association, what would you say to them?
I would encourage anyone who is considering volunteering for the Association to reach out and learn more about what opportunities are available. The work I do in groups is humbling and it is an honor to be in the presence of such resilient individuals who offer immediate compassion and understanding.
THANK YOU, JANELI.
Volunteers truly help move our mission forward. Interested in becoming a volunteer with the Alzheimer’s Association in NC?
Visit alz.org/get-involved-now/volunteer or call 800-272-3900.