Aged care organisations are acknowledging the unwavering dedication of its unpaid workforce as part of volunteer week celebrations.

While current restrictions have impacted the ongoing commitments of many aged care volunteers but others are continuing  to contribute to the sector in different ways.

Many of West Australian aged care provider Bethanie’s 550 volunteers are keeping in contact with residents over the phone, sending messages through letters and doing up cards and crafts to send to residents.

The provider has also welcomed 12 volunteers from pharmaceutical company Boehrigner-Ingleheim to help undertake gardening and maintenance work at five Living Well Centres, which are temporarily closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bethanie CEO Chris How said volunteers were an integral part of the team.

“Whether it’s through social interaction with a resident, running a games group like bingo or even those who can help with one off special events, every little bit makes such a big difference and really helps to brighten the day of our clients,” Mr How said.

Bethanie received 70 new expressions of interest for volunteers in April, Mr How said.

In New South Wales, Lynette Mackay, is one of 50 volunteers at Peninsula Villages, where she is celebrating 15 years of service.

Ms Mackay visits residents with her small dogs in a children’s pram as a form of pet therapy.  

Lynette Mackay

Peninsula Villages CEO Shane Neaves said volunteers play a vital role in providing practical assistance, support and comfort to residents.

“Our volunteers are pivotal in ensuring that our hard-working care staff have the backing they need to provide our valued residents with the highest level of care,” Mr Neaves said.

“These incredible individuals, such as Lynette, are valued members of our team who deserve recognition for the indispensable contributions they make to our residents’ quality of life,” he said.

Peninsula Villages is holding a special morning tea to honour Ms Mackay’s service to the organisation.

Volunteering online

Volunteers with consumer advocacy body Dementia Australia have jumped online to pilot the organisation’s Virtual Cuppa program.

The program replaces a regular monthly walking group to provide connection and structure for clients and their families and an opportunity to reassure them that Dementia Australia is there for them.

Virtual Cuppa program volunteer participant Jan Bayley said it was fun to communicate with clients in their homes.

“I’ve been amazed at how well everyone is adapting to the technology and enjoying sharing parts of their lives with us – from the pictures in the background of their screen and the stories that surround these images,” said Ms Bayley, who has volunteered with Dementia Australia for seven years.

Maree McCabe

Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe thanked all volunteers for their service.

“Their generosity and commitment is a gift and this week we have the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate our wonderful volunteers for the profound difference they make to the lives of people of all ages living with all forms of dementia, their families and carers,” Ms McCabe said.

Volunteers recognised for outstanding service

Suncare Community Services award volunteer nominees

In Queensland, volunteers at Suncare Community Services have been nominated for the 2020 Queensland Volunteers Week Awards for their service to the Sunshine Coast Community.

Volunteer Shirley Friedrich has been nominated for a Lifetime Contribution to Volunteering award for her 27 years of service in the Meals on Wheels Maroochydore kitchen.

Bev Wilson, who is a driver with Suncare’s Meals on Wheels service, has been nominated for the Volunteering Impact Award.

Hilary Carne and Margaret Harrold have both been nominated for Volunteer of the Year Award.

Ms Carne was nominated for her work in a number of areas with Suncare, including Meals on Wheels, Community Transport, and the Community Visitors Scheme program. Ms Harrold was also nominated for her work with the CVS program and for taking out respite centre clients on outings.

The awards presentation, run by Volunteering Queensland, has been postponed due to coronavirus.

Aged care peak commends volunteers

Leading Age Services Australia CEO Sean Rooney has also recognised the hard work and dedication to the volunteers who support Australia’s 1.3 million aged care recipients.  

Sean Rooney

“Our selfless volunteers really do change our communities and change the lives of older Australians, all year round,” Mr Rooney said.

“Visitation limits during the coronavirus pandemic have made conventional aged care volunteering more challenging but the dedication of volunteers has prompted new ways of doing things,” he said.

The number of volunteers has increased due to the national emergencies during 2019 and 2020, he said.

“Volunteers are still on the frontline, helping and checking in on older people and supporting families during this unprecedented time,” Mr Rooney said.

Mr Rooney encouraged people to celebrate volunteers through Volunteering Australia’s social media campaign.

Participants can post a photo of themselves waving their hand in thanks volunteers with the hashtags #NVW2020 and #waveforvolunteers.

National Volunteer Week takes place 18-24 May with the theme Changing Communities. Changing Lives.

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