Watch out! There’s a volunteer about!

By Laura Barnsley, manager at MHA Willersley House

Volunteering plays a crucial role in all MHA care homes. It has always been the culture and it always will be. 

Let’s get together

In lots of ways we’re more connected than ever – we have social media and wide internet access to thank for this. Yet, in others ways, we actually spend far more time on our own, away from others. This leads to many people feeling cut off and without meaningful relationships

Social isolation is a huge issue in our modern world. It is also referred to as an epidemic. Almost 2.5m aged between 45 and 64 now live alone in the UK. Of course, being alone doesn’t mean or necessarily lead to loneliness, but it is clear that socialising is good for you! A study has found that people have a 50 per cent better survival rate if they belong to a wider social group, whether this is family, friends, neighbours or a mixture.  

Reaching out to potential volunteers

Volunteering can take many forms so first consider what types of volunteering activities you and your residents might benefit from. Could you use a hand helping to run clubs or trips out with the residents? Have you got any big events or projects that need a bit of extra man power? Or perhaps you feel that having a few new faces to chat with your residents would benefit your home best? Whatever the activity, there will be willing volunteers in your community who can help. It’s just about finding them. So, how do you start?

First, start simple. Why not put up a notice in the home to alert visitors to volunteering opportunities. The truth is that many of our most passionate volunteers come to us as a result of a loved one moving in. They understand the care home environment and appreciate the importance of the little things to a resident. To spread the net a little wider, use social media and the local newspaper, the local surgery, church or school might also be able to help. Why not ask your team for their help with this?  

How you can support and get the most from your volunteers

Once you have willing volunteers, it’s essential that you make them feel like a valued member of the team. Remember that one of the reasons people volunteer is to feel less isolated and lonely themselves, so make sure your team can recognise your volunteers and makes them feel welcome.

Volunteers will also come armed with ideas and suggestions which is fantastic, so make sure you provide a forum for them to air these.

What volunteers say…

The amazing Sandra Stocks has been volunteering at Willersley for over 30 years, and this is what she says:

“I get a great deal of satisfaction from mixing with the residents on a one-to-one basis, and quite often brightening their day. Popping in to chat to someone whose relatives live far away does make a difference. Try it and see how much pleasure you give, and also get out of it.”

As you can see from Sandra’s testimony, volunteering can be an incredibly rewarding experience and brings a new lease of life into the care home environment.  Do it now! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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