LIMA — Andrew Carey was one of the first people to sign up for the Volunteer Guardian program in Allen County, a program started in 2017 by Allen County Crime Victim Services.
He is a volunteer guardian for a man living with mental health issues who is not able to make major decisions for himself.
“In my life, I’ve been blessed with a lot of things over my years and if I can give back to help others, I feel like I need to,” Carey said.
According to Elysia Bush, director of the CVS Elder Victim Ministry and Guardian Programs, volunteer guardians don’t deal with finances but focus on advocating for their protected person’s quality of life. Some individuals need assistance with or are unable to make decisions in areas such as healthcare, housing and daily needs. If there are no family members able to step in, a guardian is needed.
The person for whom Carey serves as a guardian is living in a residential care facility with specialization in mental health services. Carey’s job is to monitor his quality of life, ensuring the accommodation, health and care needs provided by the facility are satisfactory.
Establishing a relationship of trust is important as a guardian, Carey said.
“There might have been a little hesitation on his part during our first meeting. We had a good conversation, for about an hour or so. I think once I showed him that I was interested, and that I was going to come and visit him on regular basis, I think he felt very comfortable. I feel he opened up and we have a good working relationship,” Carey said.
Crime Victim Services provides training and clear guidelines to enable guardians to ensure their protected person’s safety, dignity and advocate for their needs. Although being a court-appointed guardian makes volunteers legally responsible for the guardianship duties, Carey stressed that Crime Victim Services works alongside volunteer guardians.
“If you have any issues, questions or problems they are there to work with you and help you work through things,” he said. “Crime Victim Services does a great job of educating, training and communicating throughout the process. It has been easy to give time for guardianship as well as work,” he said.
Carey spends about two hours a month with his protected person, plus regularly communicating via call or text. The COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily prevented in-person visits.
“You can put into it as much as you want to,” stressing that the time commitment is not a burden. I really enjoy the interaction with my ward. He is very social and appreciative. I find it very rewarding.”