This is a guest post written and submitted by Lucy James. We would love to hear your comments about this timely topic.
If you are looking for a way to make a difference in someone’s life, a wonderful starting place is an elderly care home. There are many great volunteer opportunities that allow you to reach out and touch the lives of some very lonely individuals.
Long-term care facilities or nursing homes spring up in every community as the elderly population continues to grow. Compared to other organizations that take on volunteers, nursing homes perhaps benefit more from volunteer interactions because it directly affects resident’s quality of life. The circumstances to which elderly people end up in these facilities vary. Some facilities are the homes of the elderly who have no family and can no longer care for themselves and others are hospitals that treat an array of illnesses. Volunteers are often welcomed and even encouraged to visit patients in either situation.
Contact your local nursing home and ask if they need volunteers, it’s most likely, they will be more than happy to have you! Typically, you can arrange your own hours to come in and visit as long as it’s in accordance with visiting policies and hours.
In most cases, residents of elderly care homes find themselves battling with depression and loneliness on a daily basis. Even with programs and activities created to keep elderly patients engaged, many still miss out on the one-on-on, personal attention that all humans crave. Several elderly folks in the home may have no friends or family who visit, and thus find themselves wishing for a new friend to talk too.
As a volunteer at an elderly care home, you are that friend, with a shoulder to cry on and an ear that will listen. In addition, you may be asked to assist patients with tasks that they are no longer able to perform themselves. These duties may include, helping with personal hygiene, cleaning or reorganizing a patient’s room by straighten out drawers or closets, writing letters to family and friends and taking them outdoors in a wheel chair for some fresh air.
Plus, many nursing homes are understaffed and don’t have the resources to spend quality time with each and every patient, making the role of the volunteer that much more important. Of course, this is especially true for elderly residents in a home who are bed-bound or don’t have family visitors.
Volunteers report sensing a well-being knowing they have made someone’s day a little brighter and easier. Sometimes, simple gestures such as bringing an elderly person some flowers or chocolates go a long way.
Volunteers may be expected to plan activities, so it helps if you spend time finding common interests with the elderly residents. For instance, if you and a patient both enjoy drinking tea or knitting, on your next visit bring in some materials and have a tea or knitting party. Some residents may enjoy taking walks with volunteers and playing card or board games, as well.
Many volunteers spend their time at nursing homes just conversing with the residents. The elderly love to talk about the past and reminisce about old days gone by. Volunteers can bring in newspapers, books and magazines to read out loud to a patient or groups of patients in the elderly care home. This is much enjoyed and appreciated by the elderly, who often lack the eyesight and dexterity to read anymore.
Companionship has proven to be therapeutic for the elderly. Even for those who appear to be confused, detached or angry still respond to interaction from another person. While, some patients are harder to reach, inside each of them is still a human being, who was once as you are now.
The word “volunteer” conjures up various images and ideas for different people. For residents of an elderly care home, a volunteer chases away loneliness. In their reality, a volunteer is simply a friend. In addition, volunteering is a great gift to oneself, while it doesn’t include financial rewards, enhancing a person’s life is a reward that can’t be bought.
Lucy James is a freelance writer helping to represent a UK based charity called MHA. MHA stands for the Methodist Homes Association and we have been providing Specialist Dementia Care and assisted living for the elderly for nearly 70 years. Visit www.mha.org.uk to find out more about what we do and enquiry about volunteering. We are always looking for more people to help us out.