The RSVP program partners with Missoula County agencies and nonprofits to provide a diverse array of volunteer opportunities older volunteers can choose from. Today we thank an amazing local volunteer, whose personal experiences shaped his community service with Missoula Aging Services.
April 21, 2021
By Cassidy Belus
When Dr. Richard Blank came across Missoula Aging Services (MAS) in 2006 he was needing something to ground him. His beloved wife, Patricia, had early-onset dementia and he was her full-time caregiver. “I realized that it would be good for me to find some other activity so that I kept myself intact mentally and physically at the time,” Dr. Blank said.
In a 2018 interview, he described the difficult transition from physician to personal caregiver. Dr. Blank spent over 30 years as a radiologist and 10 and a half looking after his wife. These experiences gave him a unique skill set and perspective.
“I volunteer, number one,” he said, “because I’ve had an incredibly – this sounds trite – but I’ve had an incredibly good life.
I’ve been blessed. At 83 I’m still blessed with a good enough mind that I can function, I got a health care background and so I thought – hoped – that I could contribute something. It’s the old give back thing but I honestly did do it because of that.”
Over the last 15 years that Dr. Blank has been volunteering at MAS, he’s done about everything you can do from traffic counting on a downtown sidewalk to folding envelopes. Many of these adventures occurred while volunteering with RSVP, an AmeriCorps Seniors program at MAS. His other areas of focus are Meals on Wheels and Dementia Friendly Missoula (DFM). For Meals on Wheels, Dr. Blank carries out nutrition assessments with clients. Along with ensuring proper nutrition, Dr. Blank provides referrals to other resources when needed. Sometimes though he knows they just need to talk and he’s happy to lend an ear.
His time spent volunteering with DFM is greatly influenced by his time as a caregiver. “When [my wife] passed away I felt that there were things that could be a lot better for dementia caregivers and people with dementia,” he said. Dementia Friendly Missoula is a volunteer coalition, composed of community members, healthcare professionals, and organizations who advocate for the independence, dignity, and health of people living with dementia in Missoula County.
For more than a decade Dr. Blank has helped to improve the quality of life for so many Missoulians.
“I can’t say enough what a good organization this is and how happy I am to be a part of it.”
For more information about volunteer opportunities with Missoula Aging Services and AmeriCorps Seniors, click here.