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From disappointment to innovation: managing volunteer expectations

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Matching the interests of a volunteer with those of care home residents, transformed a disappointing experience into a good time for all.

Background

Presented at the Midlands Learn and Share event by Nickie Edwards from Shropshire Rural Community Council, and Jo Edge, project volunteer, as part of NCVO's Volunteering in Care Homes project.

A volunteer made an enquiry through the Do-it website about  a reading group volunteer role advertised at a local care home as part of the Volunteering in Care Homes project.

The volunteer completed the induction training and, while awaiting her Disclosing and Barring Service (DBS) certificate, took part in group activities in the home which she really enjoyed, supported by the activities coordinator.

The issues we faced

After DBS clearance came through, the volunteer started reading with one of the residents. The volunteer originally thought she would be reading to a group of residents. By time she was placed, the residents who had expressed an interest in this activity were no longer at the home.

The volunteer’s disappointed with the turn of events was exacerbated by her discomfort at meeting with the resident in her room.

The volunteer did not want an intensive one-to one-relationship. Neither did she feel she could commit to weekly visits.

The volunteer was concerned that she could not meet the expectations of the role and was anxious about disappointing the resident.

The actions we took

The volunteer raised her concerns with the volunteer coordinator and it was suggested that she could take part in group activities at two of care homes participating in the project. 

The volunteer coordinator arranged for the volunteer to meet with one of the care home managers to discuss her role. 

During this meeting, the care home manager teased out of the volunteer her passion for flower arranging. As the care home manager was aware that some residents had enjoyed this pastime, the manager suggested the volunteer run flower arranging workshops for the residents. This suggestion thrilled the volunteer.

Positive outcomes

Through exploring with the volunteer her interests and skills, and matching this information with the care home manager’s knowledge of residents’ interests, we were able to devise a role that met the needs of the residents and motivated the volunteer. Additional volunteers were recruited to supporting roles so that residents had more volunteers to chat to while taking part in the activity.

It was by chance we managed to secure the right role for the volunteer. As a result of our learning we introduced a volunteer role description, which covers a range of activities volunteers can take part in, including one-to-one befriending, craft sessions, boccia etc.

Negative outcomes

This process established that it was useful to identify skills and interests of volunteers at the recruitment stage, usually during the initial enquiry, or at interview, so information is to hand when considering the volunteer/resident match.

Lessons learnt

The residents have been enthusiastic about taking part in flower arranging activities. For some it had rekindled an interest they had in their past.

One lady told us about her trips with school to pick wild flowers and she said they would then go back to the classroom and arrange them.

A couple of residents were not confident about their abilities. By offering encouragement and praise for their efforts, they seemed to get a feeling of achievement and pleasure out of the activity.

They all had something to take back to their rooms. They would ask when the volunteer was coming again because they had enjoyed the session so much.

The volunteer said of her experience:

“I was initially drawn to the idea of a reading group at the care home but when this didn't get off the ground I agreed to help out with other activities such as bingo and arts and crafts.

“However at one of the care homes, where residents had severe dementia, it was difficult to have conversations, and so I did not get a sense of making a real difference to their wellbeing. At another care home, the residents were less poorly. I felt immediately comfortable with the residents.

“Communication was somewhat easier and I derived a great deal of personal satisfaction from seeing the pleasure that the session seemed to be giving everyone.

“The atmosphere was upbeat and positive. I was grateful for the support of other volunteers from the project, and the activities coordinator. I think we have made a big difference because we were able, between us, to give more personal attention to each participant”.

 

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Page last edited Jun 02, 2016

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