Volunteers critical to aged care
20 May, 2022
by Jackie Howard, CEO Masonic Care Tasmania.
“Caring for our community’s elderly is one of the most important and rewarding things anyone can do”.
With this being National Volunteer Week, it’s an ideal time to consider the role of volunteers in the aged care industry. The people in our community who choose to support our elderly residents because they see value in giving back to those who have previously helped to build the community we have today.
The need for increased nursing staff in aged care has been a key feature of the federal election campaign – and with good reason. Just last week, we recognised and celebrated the incredible work carried out by our amazing nursing staff at MCT on International Nurses Day.
But while clinical and personal care support is absolutely essential to a successful aged care sector – and staff go above and beyond in their care and compassion for residents – this alone does not create the quality of life that our residents deserve.
Just as critical are the people who contribute to the lives of residents in an array of other meaningful ways, promoting active minds, creativity, and social interaction – and do so through a desire simply to give something of themselves for the benefit of others.
Volunteers add so much joy to the lives of our residents. The musician who gives their time and talent to stir up happy memories of yesteryear through the magic of song; the avid chess player who sits down for a game with the elderly man who no longer has the opportunity to play a weekly game with his son; the caring stranger who engages in a lengthy chat with the woman who has no family left of her own.
Then there’s the people who give their time to make the gardens and grounds more beautiful for residents to enjoy; who play a supporting role during outings and activities to ensure the highest levels of participation and personal benefit for residents; and those who simply take just a little bit of the weight off our extremely hard-working staff.
Prior to COVID-19, MCT had a thriving team of volunteers, who offered a broad range of activities, entertainment, and – most importantly – friendship.
Sadly, the onset of the pandemic put a stop to most of these activities, and it was heartbreaking to see the impacts of that loss on our residents. Our staff have done everything possible during the past two years to lessen the impact.
But with well-documented staffing shortages across the sector, the loss of volunteers hit hard.
Thankfully, we are now in a position to welcome our volunteers back with open arms.
A small group of dedicated volunteers have returned to the fold, and we are so grateful for their contribution. But, as many organisations have experienced, most have moved on to other things.
Volunteering Australia has reported that, across the country, 293 million volunteer hours were lost in the first 12 months of the pandemic. At MCT alone, we have lost more than two-thirds of our active volunteers compared to before COVID.
Due to its vulnerable nature, the aged care sector has been impacted more than most by the ongoing pandemic. As we continue to deal with outbreaks and restrictions, we are doing our best to give our residents as normal and enjoyable a life as possible.
The return of volunteers who are willing to give even a small amount of their time to enrich the lives of residents will make it so much easier to adapt to this “new normal”.
If you have ever wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, I’d urge you to consider volunteering in aged care. You’ll get so much out of the experience, but I guarantee that what you give will be appreciated more than you could ever know.