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Recruiting volunteers with foreign languages

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One Westminster and Carlton Dene care home on recruiting a volunteer to talk to a resident with dementia who had forgotten her English.


London charity, One Westminster, and Carlton Dene Elderly Resource Centre, a residential care home run by Westminster Council, discuss how they recruited a Spanish speaking volunteer to talk to a resident with dementia who had forgotten her English. The identities of those referred to here have been altered to protect their privacy.

The issues we faced

Mrs H is an 86 year-old woman with dementia. She is a Spanish national and as her dementia has progressed she has forgotten much of her English. The care home was concerned that, due to the language barrier, Mrs H was becoming socially isolated. Staff told us that Mrs H slept a great deal and would only be able to spend limited periods of time with a volunteer. 

The actions we took

The care home staff arranged for us to meet with Mrs H's daughter to draw up a clear description of the volunteer role. The daughter explained that her mother enjoyed playing dominos and so we placed an advert for a volunteer who could speak Spanish and enjoyed dominoes.

The advert was placed on the V base website to recruit volunteers who lived close to the care home) and Team London which has a wide reach.

Positive outcomes

Establishing a clear volunteer role description helped to attract potential volunteers who could speak other languages. As part of the application process, we asked what interests and skills the volunteer could offer and found a volunteer who spoke Spanish, played dominos and wanted to improve her English.

Negative outcomes

The recruitment process was very time consuming and additional interpreting services would have been helpful.

Lessons learnt

The influence of this befriending relationship on the resident and volunteer is noted in an interview with the care home manager.

“This relationship has been helpful as the service user is provided with social stimulation. She is less isolated and now. She is smiling a lot and feeling part of the home as a whole. 

"Mrs H’s daughter feels the volunteer’s visits are positive for her mum.  Her mum always talks about the visit from the volunteer and how she enjoys seeing the volunteer who plays games with her and other Spanish speaking service users. 

“The volunteer takes her out to the park when the weather is good. The daughter feels that this has a positive impact in terms of mum’s general wellbeing. 

“The relationship is growing stronger. The volunteer also benefits as working with Mrs H helps her to remember her English.”


Page last edited Aug 19, 2015

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