Towards the end f summer last year, I got the opportunity to volunteer in a residential home for the elderly, for just over a week. This meant that I could experience a different style of healthcare that I hadn’t particularly seen much of before. I also now volunteer weekly in a dementia day-care centre on a Friday morning, as a result of the week I did at the end of summer.
During this week in the summer, I spent most of my time there sitting, speaking to some of the residents. I also made cups of tea and coffee and played games with a few of them. I got the chance to go to the local hospital and meet a potential resident for the home to speak to them about potentially coming into the home. I got to go to another hospital as well to speak with a current resident who had become ill and wasn’t well enough to stay in the home.
During this week, the main thing that was clearly evident was the level of communicational skills required to work or volunteer in a place such as a residential home. I thought that being there helped me develop different ways to talk with elderly people who maybe could not always hear what I was saying. Conversations often meant I had to show patience as they would probably repeat the same story numerous times. I felt that it was important that I was enthusiastic with them when playing games or completing activities as it meant they would be more likely to enjoy what we were doing. Spending a week experiencing this high level of healthcare showed me how much some elderly community rely on other people, as well as the importance of patient confidentiality. This is why I later decided to volunteer weekly in a day-care centre, to maintain my involvement within a healthcare environment.
A care home is an excellent place to get some first hand experience of a healthcare environment; it will probably be a level of care and support that you haven’t experienced before. If you are considering medicine as a course for university, then it is important you can gain an insight to a healthcare environment like this beforehand. Speaking with people with dementia can be a challenging task at first, but I’ve found that the more I have been exposed to it, the better I’ve become at knowing what to say and how to deal with uncomfortable situations.