If you are interested in community service, volunteer at a nursing home. Nursing homes need volunteers because many residents experience depression from chronic health problems and lack of visits. A National Center for Health Statistics estimated that 60 per cent of nursing home residents have no visitors. The study contributed the lack of visits to the fact that 50 per cent of nursing home residents have no immediate family and 46 per cent have no living children. Nursing home volunteers can provide companionship and activities that improve a resident's quality of life.
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Find a nursing home volunteer program. Decide where you want to volunteer based upon the nursing home, volunteer need and available programs. Call nursing homes and inquire about their volunteer programs. Read online articles about nursing homes in your community for background details. Get nursing home recommendations from current volunteers and families of nursing home residents. Make a list of the nursing homes and their volunteer program details so that you can compare them. Once you choose a nursing home volunteer program, sign up with the facility’s recreation department or volunteer coordinator.
If you do not have time for research, you can join a volunteer program through your church, school or a local community service organisation. Contact your local American Association of Retired People (AARP) office for information on their senior citizen volunteer program. Refer to the Generations United site for volunteer opportunities for youth interested in helping the elderly (see Resources). When you participate in a volunteer program, the volunteer coordinator can find you a position with a nursing home.
Spend quality time with the residents. Since many have few visitors, companionship is important. Read books to residents. Share a meal and conversation with a resident. Some residents will also enjoy playing cards or a board game.
Assist with recreational activities. Share a special talent with residents by participating in activities such as teaching watercolour painting, making scrapbooks or planting flowers.
Offer a free service to the nursing home residents. Use your professional training to assist residents. A minister can pray with residents. A hair stylist may provide free hairdos. A dance instructor might offer free dance classes. A musician can hold a free concert.
Plan special occasions for residents such as monthly birthday parties or holiday parties. Volunteers help decorate and wrap gifts.
Bring a pet for a visit. Dogs and cats can offer comfort to residents and a fun diversion from usual activity. Ask the nursing home about their rules for pet visits.
Tips and warnings
- Volunteer during National Nursing Home week, held in May. Nursing Home Week includes many opportunities for volunteer work.
- Donate gifts for nursing home birthday and Christmas parties.
- Help a nursing home resident write a letter to a relative or friend.
- Bring a sewing, knitting or crochet project to share with a resident.
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