It is well-documented that volunteers in care homes can help to improve the health and well-being of many residents and their families, by providing important opportunities for socialisation, befriending relationships and support.
However, the presence and engagement of volunteers in care homes can make a difference in many more subtle ways.
Just by being ‘active and local’ volunteers can instantly provide a vital link between the home and the local community that ensures care homes remain connected with the immediate area and feel they have a role to play with inter-generational learning; embracing cultural differences and providing new pieces of history.
If people enjoy volunteering within the home they become natural ambassadors who share that positive experience with others. Many volunteers initially get involved in care home life through someone they love moving into the home “I got involved when a neighbour was admitted. The Activities Leader is really enthusiastic and I got ‘drawn in’” laughs one volunteer.
Misconceptions about care homes can also be erased, making life in the homes more visible and better understood, which is something the teams appreciate as well as the residents.
As one volunteer says: “It makes you feel proud of where you work when you hear really positive things about the home in your local town. It’s amazing how surprised people are to hear how life can be so enjoyable for our residents. Volunteers and families sharing these good news stories in the community is fantastic PR for us”.
Of course volunteering can work both ways “Having nostalgic two way conversations can feel very comforting and helps forge strong bonds with both residents, their families and of course the teams” stated one regular volunteer. “I enjoy coming in and taking part in the activities and I love helping out in the garden. I feel it is nice to give something back for the care my mum is given,” said another.
Of course, supporting older people can be hugely rewarding, whatever the age. One of the young volunteers taking part in a Four Seasons inter-generational collaboration commented, “As a young person, volunteering in a care home helps break down barriers and builds a better understanding between generations. It is also a time to develop new skills and build confidence and feel useful in the local community”.
Moyra Arnison, who founded one such collaboration at Blackwell Vale Care Home, also feels it exposes young people to alternative career opportunities.
“Our young volunteers are developing a close bond with residents and staff whilst learning about dementia and how it can affect individuals and their loved ones. They have taken part in the Four Seasons Dementia Experience and have embraced this challenge fully. The collaboration is increasing their confidence and self-worth with every visit and has led them to consider a career in care in the future.” Read more
Teenagers aged 14-15 from Newmarket Academy secondary school visited Kingfisher House Care Home recently as part of a YOPEY Dementia Befriender project to inspire young people to give back and appreciate the most vulnerable in our society. The teenagers spent time speaking to the home’s residents, listening to their life stories and playing games.
Home Manager Mable Gogo said: "The project is a brilliant idea. We observed good interaction from both sides and the students are looking forward to their next visit.” Read more
But of course, our homes don’t rely solely on the goodwill of volunteers to keep them linked with the local community. Many homes proactively work to remain coupled with local people, services and charities to not only nurture a feeling of attachment, but also to enable residents to make a contribution to their local communities and subsequently feel connected.
At Kingswood Lodge Care Home in Gloucester,the sister of one of the residents helps the Activities Leads to organise activities and events. Giving the resident a role within the home really helped her overall wellbeing and no doubt the volunteering efforts of her sister alongside her have helped too. As a result of her activity Anne was shortlisted for resident/relative contribution of the year at the Four Seasons Care Awards here and her sister Mary represented her on the evening. Read more
Of course, we also have to celebrate the dedication and support of our volunteers. Swan House Care Home in Chatteris surprised their lovely volunteers recently after they worked enthusiastically with the care team to write and produce their own pantomime for the residents at the home. Read more
Home Manager at Swan House, Anne Hillary said: “It was a great opportunity to thank our volunteers for everything they do for our residents – they’re a fantastic bunch of people.”
We could not say it any better. Thank you to all our volunteers for the joy and support they bring to the lives of those that live and work in our homes. If you are interested in volunteering in your local area please contact one of our care homes nearest to you.
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