Volunteering – what to expect and my experience so far.

I have recently managed to secure a place volunteering in a care home very close to where I live. The process of trying to get a place volunteering has probably taken me around 3 months since the initial email with myself visiting about twice a week in order to try and spur them on. Although it has been a pain to organise, I have enjoyed every aspect of the care home and it has provided me with a first-hand insight into the level of care that all workers there have to provide.

Currently, I am doing a few hours a week with the intent of moving up to around 5 hours in the summer holidays. Before this, I had never worked or even been a care home, with both grandparents being completely independent. Due to this, I had no real idea what to expect and I was completely reliant on the experiences of those around me to guide me. Beginning work in the care home, for me anyway, was very daunting, I entered the front door and was greeted with a vast array of names of job roles to learn. However, soon my nerves dissolved as those around me were extremely welcoming and very friendly.

Due to my age, I am not allowed to get involved in the personal care of any residents; nor can I help them get up or sit down due to the varying condition of the residents and certain restrictions that inhibit me doing so. My job is to make cups of tea, talk with the residents, observe medical rounds, ensure everyone has what they need. My favourite job to do is to take the blood pressures, pulses and the oxygen saturation of the residents (A senior care member is always present and all measurements are electronic due time constraints). This, in particular, has been the most valuable part of the job as it involves me having to adapt to each of the residents’ needs, whether it be they are deaf or blind, I have to inform them of what I need them to do. This really allows me to work first-hand with people of varying cognitive and physical abilities. Although at times this can be challenging due to certain residents’ conditions, I thoroughly enjoy the chance to work with residents and make sure they feel comfortable while I take the readings.

I think one of the big stigmas that people have towards care homes is that many believe they are quite lonely and dull places. However, one thing that has really struck me is that, although many of the residents are old and have many medical conditions, they all still have smiles on their faces and happiness still exists within. Another one of my favourite jobs is just sitting down and talking to one of the residents. This always puts a smile on my face as many delve into their pasts and tell me the stories of their childhood and all their happy memories. They also ask me how my life is and I always get asked how school is and if I am well behaved at school. What I love the most about these conversations is the sheer gratitude that the residents have that I have taken the time to speak to them, it is experiences like this which really brighten my day and make me love volunteering. I have learned from these experiences to cherish the good things in life so that further on in life I can think back to all the good times.

The care home I volunteer at has both residential and nursing home residents. This means that within the care home there is a wide range of conditions with residents at varying stages of illnesses. Although I have had experience of observing patients with Alzheimer’s disease, I had never experienced the level of care required to treat someone with Alzheimer’s. It pains me to see the decline in cognitive function of that the residents have undergone but I feel it has provided me with invaluable experience of how damaging the disease is. In care homes, it is expected that residents will come and go. This has taught me to show compassion without developing any emotional attachment to the resident, which is proving quite hard. It has further shown me the importance of improving the lives of those in the care home, even if only marginally, as at certain stages the quality of their life is more important than how much longer they do live. One resident that has really stuck with me is a patient that is completely immobile, blind, almost entirely deaf and has severe dementia. The reason she has stuck with me is that she showed me how destructive these diseases can be, which really spurred my inspiration to become a doctor and maybe prevent such conditions by diagnosis and early treatment.

Through the care home, i have learned how to adapt to different scenarios and the how much of an affect many of the conditions, mentioned previously, have on a person’s quality of life. I am thoroughly enjoying my time volunteering and always look forward to going there after school. Most of all it has further inspired and fueled my desire to study medicine.

I would definitely recommend volunteering in a care home or with the elderly to anyone as I have seen how beneficial it is to those that receive the help and attention.

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