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Aged care volunteers ‘give a little and change a lot’

The important and vital role volunteers play in aged care, and across a number of sectors throughout the nation, is this week being celebrated, acknowledged and appreciated as part of National Volunteer Week 2018.

Aged care volunteers across the nation are being acknowledged as part of National Volunteer Week 2018 ( Source: Shutterstock)
Aged care volunteers across the nation are being acknowledged as part of National Volunteer Week 2018 ( Source: Shutterstock)

Running from 21-27 May 2018, the annual celebration acknowledges the generous contributions of Australia’s volunteers, with this years theme ‘Give a little. Change a lot.’ representing the millions of volunteers who make a profound impact in their communities and on society through giving a little time.

Volunteering Australia Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Adrienne Picone says volunteers play a “critical role” in the aged care sector, also making up a significant portion of the aged care workforce.

“There are five volunteers for every paid worker in the not-for-profit sector [and] the aged care sector would not be able to function without the support of volunteers,” Ms Picone says.

“With such a high proportion of volunteers engaged in the aged care sector it is fantastic to see aged care providers celebrating and acknowledging the contributions of their volunteers.

“Volunteers in aged care deliver ancillary support, frontline services and are vitally important in increasing social capital in aged care and residential settings [and] Volunteering Australia stresses that volunteers in the aged care sector assist with reducing isolation, providing an extra social connection and improving the outcomes achieved by those in aged care.”

A project, looking into the changing nature of volunteering in aged care, is currently underway, and coinciding with National Volunteer Week 2018.

The Jacaranda Project, a collaboration between Volunteering WA, Amana Living, Juniper and Southcare, as well as the Aged Care Volunteer Co-Ordinators Network and Council on the Ageing WA, has been running since 2017 and is focusing on the change being brought forward by new funding models such as consumer directed care, and the influence of the ageing population.

Dr Megan Paull is part of the Jacaranda Project’s research team and says the pilot project is also further highlighting just how vital volunteers in aged care are.

“Aged care is changing and so is volunteering,” she explains.

“If we can find a way to make the changes work for us rather than get left behind by them, then all of those involved, including the volunteers, are likely to benefit.

“Without volunteers aged care would be unable to provide the services that it does to the level that we are lucky enough to enjoy here - particularly those things which are about human connection.

“It is not only the recipients of volunteering who benefit, but also the volunteers themselves.

“There are so many stories about how volunteering changes lives, and this includes stories about volunteering in aged care.”

The Jacaranda Project is also looking at understanding enablers and barriers to volunteering in an aged care setting, something that Volunteering Australia’s Ms Picone says is a priority focus.

“There is a decline in the number of formal volunteers, particularly in the sectors with the highest unmet need - like aged care and disability,” she says.

“Volunteering Australia would certainly encourage more people to start volunteering in these areas, however we stress that this needs to be matched by adequate funding for volunteers management, resources, training and Volunteering Support Services.”

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