Now is the time to volunteer in aged care.
Volunteers play a vital role for aged care residents and staff, and they’re especially needed now. Two-thirds of volunteers stopped volunteering in aged care settings last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Volunteering Australia.
What’s more, aged care needs more volunteers than it had pre-COVID. The aged care royal commission highlighted volunteers’ importance to better quality of life for aged care residents, and to the industry’s shift to a person-centred approach to care.
There are several things to know before you knock on your local aged care home’s door:
- How to find care homes that welcome volunteers.
- What to expect from a care home that takes you on as a volunteer.
- The range of aged care volunteering roles available to you (you might be surprised).
Older people still crave community and social connection.
How helpful is volunteering in aged care?
A person isn’t meant to disappear from the world just because they’ve entered aged care, but Grace nearly did.
Grace lives in an aged care home three hours away from her family. Her family calls her regularly on Zoom and visits when possible, but it just isn’t enough: Grace sees other residents get weekly visits from family and friends. She feels left out and lonely.
Thank goodness for two local ladies who each volunteer their time every week to take Grace out for coffee, shopping, and church. One of these ladies also gives Grace free keyboard lessons.
Giving your time to older people in aged care enhances their quality of life, provides much-needed social connection, and often gives their family peace of mind.
Older people crave community and social connection like everyone else. That’s why volunteers are a vital part of residential aged care, as most care staff and nurses just can’t spend quality time with residents.
Sharing your skills in aged care
Volunteers also help aged care facilities run more smoothly. This might be through lending a hand gardening, driving residents to medical appointments, organising lifestyle activities and helping out with special events.
Who should volunteer for aged care?
Volunteering in aged care is for anyone, of any age, who wants to brighten older people’s lives.
What to expect when volunteering for aged care
Here’s what to expect from an aged care home that supports and values its volunteers.
Aged care homes with volunteer programs should be well-organised, with inductions and ongoing training and support.
You should not be asked to do tasks better suited to paid staff. Remember, as a volunteer your role is to add value, not replace paid work.
Make sure your time is respected. You should be given decent notice of changes to your volunteering schedule. For example, if you’ve organised a time to volunteer at an aged care home, you should not be turned away at the door.
Not all aged care homes are prepared for volunteers, but there are plenty that do have their act together.
Connecting with residents that speak a foreign language is a highly valued service.
How to volunteer in aged care homes
Searching online is a great way to find quality aged care volunteering roles. You can find a great variety of roles on SEEK and Volunteering Australia’s website. Some roles might be quite unexpected!
- Lifestyle assistants: Help organise or run lifestyle activities. Think art and craft groups, knitting circles, bingo, and more.
- Talent and entertainment: Entertain residents with your skills or talents!
- Drivers: Escort residents to medical appointments, the beach, coffee shops, and local amenities.
- Social visitors: Visit to spend regular time with an older person, chat about topics of interest, and do activities together like walking or card games.
- Language speakers: Connect with residents that speak a foreign language is a highly valued service.
- Beauty and pampering: Giving nail and beauty treatments to residents could make their day.
- Pet visitors: Bringing your pet to visit residents is becoming a more accepted thing to do!
- Technology and IT support: Help residents use computers, phones, and ipads.
- Events: Help with birthday parties, high teas, and other themed celebrations within a care home.
- Reading to residents.
- Gardening: Spruce up a care home’s gardens, or help with vegetable gardening programs.
Other ways to volunteer in aged care
The past year has seen initiatives arise to connect with aged care residents remotely.
- Pages For Wisdom: Write and send a story or poem to hundreds of aged care residents through Pages For Wisdom. The program sends digital copies of new writing to aged care homes around Australia, for residents to read at their leisure. You might even get some feedback!
- 1 Letter, 1 Smile: Send your letter or drawing to 1 Letter, 1 Smile and it will reach aged care residents in lockdown in seven different countries.
- More opportunities to write to a resident include this letter writing program, and Bupa’s ‘visits by mail’.
However you give it, your time is a great gift to an older person in aged care.
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