Volunteering as a carer

Volunteering as a carer

Volunteering is an amazing way to spend your past-time. It’s a rewarding experience, through which you can give back to the community and help people in need. According to the Institute for Volunteering Research, around 12 million adults in the United Kingdom volunteer regularly with an organisation. The King’s Fund estimates that in the health and social care services, there are around 3 million regular volunteers - the same number as the paid staff.

IVR also estimates that there are around 17,000 care homes in England. These range from large private care groups to small family businesses or charity organisations.

You could volunteer as a carer if you simply want to do something to fill your time. It’s also a great idea to start volunteering as a carer earlier on, such as in your teenage years, if you are planning to work in the care sector in the future.

What do volunteer carers do?

A volunteer carer can be many things. There are a vast number of options available if you want to get involved as a volunteer carer. At large, volunteer carer roles revolve around befriending roles and roles which are activity led.

As a volunteer carer, you can also choose how much or how little you get to volunteer. You can either have an on-going commitment, volunteering for a couple of hours every week or you can volunteer at irregular times. You take your pick, depending on your schedule. It can even be a one off volunteer carer experience. There is no rule. If you find a care organisation or care home which you really love, you may end up volunteering there for years!

There are so many reasons to volunteer as a carer. The study conducted by IVR in care homes found that 89% of staff and 75% of volunteer believed that getting involved as a volunteer in care homes had contributed major or moderate positive impacts in the care homes. As a volunteer carer you will:

  • Improve the lives of others, which in turn will improve your life
  • Interact with other like-minded volunteers
  • Being a part of a community of volunteers, contributing towards the same goal
  • Receive training and support
  • Develop future life skills
  • Gain new skills which will improve your CV

Volunteering in the care sector doesn’t mean you will necessarily volunteer as a carer in a care home. You get to choose what you want to do. There are thousands of care organisations, charities or care homes which accept volunteers.

You may want to volunteer at care events, where you will get a chance to raise funds and raise awareness for vulnerable people. Volunteering at care events is a great way to get to know people in your community and beyond and you will get a sense of satisfaction for making a difference in carers’ and elders’ lives. You don’t need any previous experience to take part as a volunteer, you simply need to:

  • Have great communication skills
  • Be a reliable person
  • Have a friendly personality
  • Ability to use your initiative
  • Passion for care
  • Be flexible
  • Have good organisational skills

There are some other care volunteering options, depending on your particular interests and the time you are willing to into volunteering. You could also become a local awareness volunteer or even a social media volunteer or insight volunteer.

All of these volunteer opportunities typically centre around the idea of spreading the word and raising awareness to care in general. Some of the things you may get involved in as a volunteer are:

  • Making connections within your local community, such as GP surgery, library, supermarket, gym, to put up posters and leaflets raising awareness to care
  • Research care charities and support elderly people with care information
  • Spread the message in the online medium about care support and raise awareness about different care options for elders
  • Develop content centred around care and adult age related diseases
  • Take part in research opportunities benefiting the elderly

These are just some ideas of what being a volunteer in the care services could do. But there are many ways in which you can leave your mark, if you are passionate about caring and about helping those in need.

Where can I volunteer to help the elderly?

If you’re looking into becoming a volunteer carer, there are an array of options out there for you. You could volunteer with one of the many care charities all across the United Kingdom, which do amazing work to support the elderly. Another option is to start volunteering in an actual care home or nursing home, where you would have a more hands-on approach.

If you are passionate about caring and you like to help others, especially some of the most vulnerable people in society, the elderly. There is a shortage in staff all across the care system, so choosing to volunteer in a care home can really leave a mark. As stated previously, it is estimated that in the health and social care services, there are around 3 million regular volunteers - the same number as the paid staff. But that doesn’t mean this is enough. With the number of old people requiring care expected to rise and subsequently, the number of people with dementia expected to more than double to 1.6 million people by 2040, the system will only be under more and more pressure. Care services do need the help of volunteers, but most importantly the elders requiring care need volunteers.

There are many volunteer roles available in the care sector. Some of the things you may volunteer with are:

  • Spending time with elders, simply keeping them company and having conversations
  • Gardening together
  • Playing games such as scrabble or puzzles
  • Reading together
  • Painting or drawing
  • Putting together plays with the other volunteers

By volunteering in a care home you will feel like you are doing something good. Volunteering will be a very rewarding experience for you and you can be sure you won’t volunteer just once, you won’t be able to give up the feeling of helping elders in need. By volunteering you will:

  • Help elders live a happier life
  • Teach elders and have them teach you in return too
  • Meet new people and broaden your social circle
  • Learn new life skills
  • Gain relevant work experience
  • Give back to the community
  • Do something rewarding and worthwhile with your time
  • Have fun

How is volunteering in a care home?

As a volunteer carer in a care home you can expect to go through a whirlwind of emotions. Especially is this is your first time volunteering as a carer. You will not be able to volunteer as a one off - you will want to keep on giving. If you are a caring person and you like being kind to people and helping them out, you will make a great volunteer carer.

By volunteering as a carer, you will be in direct contact with the residents of the care home. According to IVR the involvement of volunteer carers has “delivered fundamental socialisation, company and ‘someone to talk to’ ranging from very basic ‘sitting and being’ or hand-holding to more substantial long term one-to-one befriending relationships and support”. The quality of life of residents in care homes majorly improves with the help of volunteer carers, specifically the social and emotional side of life.

As previously stated, after you become a volunteer carer it is hard to stop. As a volunteer carer you will get to meet these elders, get to know their stories and form such strong bonds with them, that you will always want to come back and spend time together.

The volunteer - elder relationship will change into a friendship relationship. This relationship can consist of walks around the care home or trips outside of the care home. As a volunteer carer you can even expect into developing relationships with the elder’s family. You can expect to form genuine and deep friendships.

As a volunteer carer, you may expect to work with elders which are in a more sensitive situation in their life. Some elders may be suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease for example. But even in this case, as a volunteer you are able to help them. Even if the elder person you are volunteering to help has moderate or severe dementia for example, you will still be able to make a difference in their lives. Social stimulation and company are key elements in helping people with dementia. It was discovered that volunteer carers can have major positive impacts on the well-being of the care home residents. Volunteer carers can help the elders settle in to the care home, they can add meaning to their life, make them enjoy life more and altogether reduce their stress levels, anxiety or distress. It was discovered that the only negative effect left on residents was when the volunteer carer left and broke the bond they have formed together.

Volunteering as a carer is very fun as well. Apart from the rewarding aspect of volunteering, you also get to have some very interesting conversations with the elders in the care home, learn new things from each other and have some fun too. You could be playing games, quizzes, read newspapers or books together or just have small chats - this is how a volunteer carer can mentally and physically stimulate the elders. It has been proven that mental stimulation can slow cognitive decline. So what more reason would you need to become a volunteer carer? Helping someone improve their life chances can sure be a reason to volunteer.

Volunteering as a carer in a care home is actually multi-faceted. You do not only help yourself and the residents of the care home as a volunteer, but also the staff in that particular institution. Mental and physical well-being can be boosted with the help of volunteer carers. This is a direct result of the volunteer carer’s involvement - they take on part of the caring job off of the carers’ shoulders and offer them some moments of respite.

Moreover, volunteering as a carer will help you immensely. The perks of volunteering, you can only feel for yourself, but here are just some of them:

  • Feeling like doing something rewarding
  • Personal satisfaction
  • Social and emotional well-being
  • Career development

All in all, volunteering as a carer is such a wonderful experience for both you and the people you help. If you have not done any volunteer work before, most probably a volunteer carer opportunity will be the most rewarding thing to do. You don’t have to commit to a set number of hours, you can do it whenever you can afford to. As a volunteer carer you get to pick the times you volunteer. Furthermore, depending on your interests, you can choose to be a volunteer carer in a home and be in direct contact with the elders there. Otherwise, you can choose to volunteer for care events and do your bit to raise awareness for care and elderly people.

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