As Australian marks National Volunteer Week, aged care providers acknowledge the army of unpaid workers who provide more than 110,000 hours of service each year in residential care.
Every week in residential aged care facilities across Australia, more than 23,000 people give up their free time to help provide essential services to residents.
“Volunteers are compassionate people, who genuinely care and want to help make a difference to the lives of those around them,” said Jennene Buckley, CEO of aged care provider Feros Care.
Ms Buckley’s organisation had 129 active volunteers helping out across its community and residential villages last financial year.
“We understand the value of volunteers, with so many extraordinary people helping out in various roles,” Ms Buckley said.
Volunteers are an essential segment of the aged care workforce, as the recent 2016 National Aged Care Workforce Census and Survey showed.
The survey found:
- there were 23,537 volunteers in residential facilities last year who worked an average of 4.9 hours each a fortnight
- volunteers collectively provided 114,897 hours of service last year
- 83 per cent of aged care facilities had one or more volunteers.
The survey also found that both the overall number of volunteers and the total hours offered by them were higher last year than in 2012.
Residential facilities in inner regional locations were most likely to have volunteers, while those in remote and very remote areas had fewer volunteers than the average, according to the survey.
The use of volunteers by residential facilities also differed by ownership type, the survey found. Not-for-profit facilities were more likely to use volunteers (91 per cent), than for-profit (72 per cent) or government facilities (69 per cent).
Last year’s survey included a new question about the roles undertaken by volunteers in aged care. It showed that residential facilities most often used volunteers for:
- social activity support assistance (82 per cent)
- planning of group activities (68 per cent) and
- companionship/befriending (64 per cent).
A smaller share of facilities had volunteers undertaking roles of transport assistants (23 per cent), shopping or appointment assistants (16 per cent) and gardening assistants (15 per cent).
ACH Group volunteer team leader Tay Parker said the role of volunteers at her organisation was evolving.
“We’re moving away from what has been quite a passive role to something more dynamic,” she said.
“In our social links programs in particular, we try to match volunteers with customers who both love doing the same thing. It’s about doing things with people instead of doing things for them,” said Ms Parker.
There are 380 volunteers across ACH Group who contribute 77,300 hours a year in a broad range of roles – from supporting specialist dementia and respite programs to helping with social support and transport.
Role in palliative care
Palliative Care Australia said that volunteers were an important part of palliative and end-of-life care.
“Not only do they work directly with patients and carers, as unpaid workers they provide a link between community and healthcare providers,” said PCA chief executive Liz Callaghan.
National Volunteer Week runs from 8-14 May.
Related AAA coverage: Meet the people volunteering in aged care
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