Care Home Volunteers

Care Home Volunteers addresses the social ill of loneliness and isolation of residents in care homes for older people in Wiltshire and Swindon. CHV recruits, trains and supports volunteers to help overcome this loneliness and isolation – primarily by face-to-face, one-to-one befriending visits. The pandemic has brought the need for our service, and particularly the public awareness of it, into sharp focus. In the year preceding the pandemic, we made nearly 2500 visits to the most needy residents, mostly otherwise unvisited, often those with dementia and near the end of their lives. During the pandemic when no visits were possible, our volunteers have written thousands of cards and letters, made telephone and video calls, raised money for ipads for use by residents to keep in touch with loved ones, and worked with schools and local businesses to provide virtual visits, Christmas cards and cakes and songs to these lonely older people.

Information for volunteers

Participants:
A resident in a care home may have suffered the loss of a partner and will have lost their home, social network and possessions; they will be suffering from physical impairment, dementia or other sensory or cognitive disabilities that make social interaction and involvement in organised activities difficult. 40% of older people in care suffer from depression, two-thirds from dementia, 40,000 residents nationally have no outside visitors and, for a resident with dementia, social contact with others, outside care tasks, is only two minutes in six hours. Research shows that loneliness increases on entering residential care. The median length of stay in a care home is only about 15 months, so these vulnerable and marginalissed people have no opportunity, capacity or, indeed, time left to overcome their loneliness and turn their lives around by themselves.

Outcomes:
Isolation causes loneliness, and loneliness causes poor health and early death, and particularly so for the frail, sick elderly people we meet. During the pandemic, residents have been “literally dying of loneliness” (evidence to Parliamentary Committee on Covid), but loneliness has always been widespread (but often unacknowledged) in care homes. Dementia and other common ailments of care home residents make communication and social contact very difficult, and hence themselves cause isolation. Academic studies show that ‘An hour’s chat a week helps with dementia’ reduces loneliness, and thus reduces its harmful consequences. The activities the study describes are exactly those we provide.

Our service users, the residents, are generally themselves not able to articulate their feelings of loneliness, or of the benefit provided by our volunteers. However, we have a considerable body of evidence from the care homes of this benefit. More importantly, we can see our impact in the smile of greeting from a previously unresponsive elderly person, feel it in a squeeze from a frail hand, hear it in a chuckle at a shared joke or memory or in a hum along to a song.

Contact

Care Home Volunteers
7 Industry Park,
Cricketts Lane
Wiltshire
SN15 3EQ

Themes

Age Groups