Understanding volunteers in the area of dementia care is an important step in providing the right support.
Volunteers perceived that their activities caused a number of impacts and they were presented with several challenges.
- Volunteers saw supporting carers and those with dementia as part of a single package, with family members being key in engaging them;
- The boundaries between volunteers, carers and staff can be blurred. People living with dementia see everyone as their network;
- Volunteer work concentrated around social interaction activities;
- Creating a positive impact can take time;
- Volunteers also benefitted, and particularly liked feeling needed;
- Being confident to deal with apparent aggressive behaviour was a key challenge;
- Experiencing the death of someone living with dementia can be traumatic for new volunteers;
- Male and female volunteers could experience different challenges.
Points to Consider
- Further promotion of the range of volunteer activities and settings is needed;
- The initial stages of dementia care volunteering are critical for providing support;
- Training in how to support people in public places, and having named contacts to call was a priority;
- To build confidence, volunteers need support to deal with their emotional challenges, and in planning their time commitments;
- Extra support is needed when dealing with bereavement, particularly for new volunteers;
Also I think for the carers, yes, they can talk about how they feel and they can talk about how they feel without being judged with each other and with you. I think it helps if they know you’ve been there a bit really because some of the things people think and feel they’re maybe slightly ashamed of and I think they’re happy to talk to you. So I think that’s quite helpful. So I think it’s about a 50/50 role really so I would say our use is we’re there for as much for the carers as for the people with dementia. It’s the same thing, really. (Volunteer, Cumbria)
Best Practice ExampleDementia Friends
One of the largest and most widespread initiatives over recent years has been the Dementia Friends initiative, by the Alzheimer’s Society.
This initiative is based on the premise that a better understanding of dementia can lead to more positive action.