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How to Volunteer With Your Local Nursing Home

Updated on January 30, 2015
Bring some joy to a senior citizen's life by volunteering at your local nursing home.
Bring some joy to a senior citizen's life by volunteering at your local nursing home. | Source

Benefits of Volunteering With Your Local Nursing Home

Did you know that by learning how to volunteer with your local nursing home, you could gain valuable expertise to help you obtain college scholarships or a better job?

You'll also be providing critical emotional and social support for the elderly as well as offering vital community service for your city or county. What's not to like about that scenario?

Finally, while most people choose to volunteer with no thoughts of rewards for themselves, many organizations and facilities do choose to honor their valuable volunteer workers with incentives or special recognitions.

Know the Guidelines for Nursing Home Volunteers

Before you can make a decision about where you would like to volunteer or what type of activities and duties would best suit your skills and personality, you need to find out the specific guidelines for your locality.

Start by identifying two or three nursing homes in your area, and contact the administrator for each. He or she can explain the current regulations as these may vary greatly from facility to facility.

For example, some nursing homes may require a background check or health screening before they allow people to volunteer and to work with their residents. Others may require some type of specialized skills or education. The bottom line here is to find out what the volunteer requirements are for the nursing home you are most interested in and tailor your goals and commitments to their criteria.

If the nursing home at which you want to volunteer has a required training program, enroll as soon as possible so you can get the training out of the way and be ready to start volunteering.

Understand a Volunteer's Typical Duties

Nursing home volunteers usually provide support for staff members in areas such as activities (think crafts and games), communication (reading and writing for residents), or social interaction (conversational visits). With approval from the volunteer supervisor or administrator, you might even be able to take residents outside for a walk or even decorate their nursing home room for them!

Volunteering in any or all of these areas allows you to ease the loneliness that many nursing home residents feel because of their separation from friends and family. While sitting and chatting with someone may not seem like a big deal to you, an elderly nursing home resident is reaping huge emotional and social benefits from your presence.

Take Advantage of Training Opportunities

From time to time as a volunteer, you may be offered access to training programs sponsored by the nursing home. For example, the facility might conduct a seminar on age-related dementia issues or wellness for the elderly.

The experience you gain helps you become a more competent volunteer and could even open up other volunteer duties or even paid positions in the future. Even if the nursing home for which you are volunteering doesn't offer any ongoing educational opportunities, be alert for such trainings and seminars in your community. Learning new skills keeps your mind active and improves your overall performance in many areas.

Treat Nursing Home Volunteering Like a Job

Give the same commitment and energy to a nursing home volunteering position that you would to a paying job. Be on time and treat everyone—residents and staff—with respect and dignity. If you must be late, call ahead and alert your supervisor. Try not to miss any of your scheduled days as your nursing home residents will be counting on your visit to brighten their day and bring them news of the outside world.

While you might decide to go to work if you have a minor illness such as a cold or sinus problems, remember that many elderly persons have compromised immune systems. If you aren't feeling well or you are running a low grade fever, it's safer to stay at home.

Volunteering Benefits Everyone

Learning how to volunteer with your local nursing home helps ease some of the work load for staff members, provides valuable social interaction for the residents, and gives one a sense of fulfillment for providing service to individuals and the community. In this scenario, everyone is a winner.

Have you ever considered volunteering at a nursing home? Why or why not?

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