It’s that time of year when charities everywhere celebrate the contributions of their hard-working and committed volunteers! Volunteers’ Week takes place every year, on 1-7 June.
In honour of this, we cast the spotlight on one young and innovative charity whose volunteers bring joy, friendship and value to life for a group of people who are isolated, often lonely and sometimes forgotten. Here, Norman Edwards, Chair of Care Home Volunteers, tells MT about their work:
Care Home Volunteers (CHV) is a new organisation, set up to match volunteers to their local care home. It is currently based in Wiltshire but has aspirations to grow to have a national presence. Care homes generally show great kindness and compassion in looking after their residents – more than 90% are rated as good or better in the ‘Caring’ category in inspections.
However, care homes are always very busy places and, even in the best ones, there is often not enough time for carers to spend periods of time with individual residents, particularly those who are not able to join in organised activities.
CHV volunteers provide one-to-one or small group befriending with older people in care, usually just in conversation or reminiscing. This helps these residents to keep in touch with the outside world, gives them an opportunity to remember the good times and gives value again to their lives. For volunteers, new friendships are struck up, and they often say how rewarding it is to give some joy and happiness to these sometimes isolated folk. For the care home, CHV volunteers help it become better connected and well-known in its local community.
That older people are frequently socially isolated and lonely is well documented. People move from their own homes into residential care nearly always because of loss of physical or cognitive capabilities or the passing away of a partner who has been their carer. They thus also suffer the loss of their spouse, their home, possessions, community and social network.
Volunteers need no special experience or skills, just a willingness to help older people. However, CHV provides preparation and support for its volunteers, covering such matters as dementia, communication and safeguarding. Volunteers and the CHV co-ordinator meet regularly to share their experiences and to give mutual support. They are always looking for more volunteers to join them and would welcome donations to help them continue and grow.
CHV volunteers provide a purpose in life for residents in care homes and a reason for them to get up each morning. They know from care home staff, from residents themselves and from their relatives, that CHV volunteers’ visits are highly valued and have improved the wellbeing and quality of life for the many old people in residential care.