Sadly, loneliness is very common amongst residents of aged care facilities.
Many aged care residents have no family that can visit.
They may not have any family, or because of family dynamics, have none that visit.
Families are often unable to travel to visit, especially since the arrival of the pandemic, as they live interstate or internationally.
The social network of the residents often diminishes in number with the passing of time, but also in their own ability to get out and about.
Most of the friends of the resident that I visit no longer drive, and have difficulties catching public transport.
Some days the only conversation that a resident may have is related to their care.
Staff asking them what they want to do today, what they want to eat, when they can attend to other needs for them.
Up until that point in their lives, conversations would have been about a much wider range of topics.
Volunteering to visit a resident can have a tremendously positive impact on the life of this resident.
Improving the lives of residents is one of our core values here at AutumnCare, so, I decided to engage in a volunteering activity.
For the last 18 months I have been visiting a resident in a nursing home each fortnight, her name is Jill.
We talk about many different things each time I visit.
Sometimes she reminisces and I learn something about her past and her family. Other times we discuss the news.
We share a love of reading and often exchange books and discuss them in great detail.
We debate different views; it is lively and engaging.
Sometimes I take her in the wheelchair for a walk outside and tries (in vain) to teach me the names of various plants in the nursing home garden.
I am told by staff that there are larger benefits to my visits.
That it initiates new conversations with the residents, even if it is only to note the ‘lovely red shoes she had on!’
The staff too, enjoy my visits, appreciating a smile and a supportive comment.
Giving my time to sit for a couple of hours is very rewarding.
Many times during my nursing career I wished to just have the time to stop and chat.
You can see that sometimes this is all they want.
Now I am very fortunate to be able to fulfil that wish.
I recently gave Jill a shawl that I had knitted for her.
She was very touched by the gift and appreciative of the time I had taken to knit it.
The staff told me that now she takes it with her wherever she goes and proudly tells all that admire it ‘my volunteer knitted this for me, I feel really special’.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than that.
The smiles on the face of my resident, the staff, and indeed the other residents when I walk in, tells me that I am doing something good.
It is a reminder to me too, not to take my good health for granted. To appreciate all that I have and all that I can do.
I am very glad I made the decision to become a volunteer, I really do enjoy it and do not see myself stopping anytime soon.