Asume, Motivate - Volunteering in Dementia


The idea of ‘giving something back to society’ was an important motivation. The qualitative data suggests that the motivation of giving something back goes deeper for some volunteers to being an important part of their self-identity. Volunteering activity was also framed as being linked to career motivations that were built on caring and nurturing roles, such as teaching, nursing and even librarianship. The implication being that if “caring is a vocation” (Volunteer, SVF03, Stirlingshire) then so to was volunteering in dementia perceived as a vocational activity.

The findings, however, also suggest that the idea of ‘giving back’ could be quite complex and linked with feelings of guilt in regards to giving time for volunteering. For example, often volunteers had received help from other volunteers or organisations and felt that they owed something back for that help. It is important to note this impulse and feeling of indebtedness as at times it was noted that it could be inappropriate for someone to volunteer on this basis, especially if they had been recently bereaved. The wider stakeholders noted the importance of this when recruiting volunteers and that training is important as volunteers can “find it difficult” (Wider stakeholder inteview). Therefore, the idea of ‘giving back’ can be linked to guilt and feelings of indebtedness. The idea of feeling indebted to volunteer is counter to the whole fundamental idea of volunteering, so has to be managed carefully by volunteer agencies.

Because I think I’m sort of predisposed to being more of a caring person than doing other things. It’s something that I was interested in. I always wanted to be a nurse right from when I was younger, so it goes along with that kind of thing…. I think I’ve always been a caring type person.. Sounds very altruistic, I don’t mean to be, but… (Female Volunteer, Cumbria)

It’s part of me. I’ve always been a caring person. Even from being this high I used to go to the neighbours and make the old lady who was 80 odd her toast and I’d take it up to bed to her and I was only four (Female Volunteer, Cumbria).

So she was crippled for several weeks and months at the start of the year. My husband had cancer last year and then chemo at the end of the year, and this year. And then my brother had heart problems this summer, so we’ve had an awful lot out of the health service. So when there was a chance to, sort of, just give a little back I thought, yeah, go on (Female Volunteer, Cumbria).

My sister had it. She died at… what was she, in her late 50s I think. And because she were in Leeds, ’cause that’s where I’m from and I were up here, I couldn’t do much for her. And when she died, I felt so guilty, ’cause I couldn’t have helped her, felt with my own flesh and blood, I can’t help. (Female Volunteer, Cumbria)