Asume, Sustain - Volunteering in Dementia

Consistency and long-term volunteering was seen as critical in the area of dementia care.

This project highlighted that the level of training volunteers had experienced varied considerably. Volunteer sustainability centred on role-specific training, good supervision from managers, and peer-to-peer support.

The research showed the importance of formal support structures. Consistent management, through the volunteer coordinator role, was key to a good volunteer experience and a central factor in sustainability.

Key Findings

  • Training and support is critical, as sustainability of volunteers, and their support organisations, creates a positive experience for the person living with dementia;
  • Current training provision is varied and often limited;
  • Many volunteers rely on their previous training and knowledge to help them;
  • Volunteer coordinators can be key in providing on-going support and matching volunteers to suitable roles;
  • Wider management structures, within some volunteer organisations, could be viewed negatively;
  • Volunteers valued peer-to-peer support but this was not always possible.

Points to Consider

  • Supporting people with dementia requires a variety of training, particularly in learning to handle the potential stigma associated with dementia;
  • Training should be accessible and taught flexibly;
  • There needs to be well organised administrative support and systems;
  • Peer interaction and support needs should be clearly established;
  • Volunteer coordinators should be in place to support all volunteers.

I think if somebody’s starting out as a volunteer it is important that you have a named person who you can go to and also that there is a sort of developing programme of information going on. It’s not really fair on somebody to just give them the basic training course and then they meet somebody who has particular needs and the person who’s befriending them, you know, hasn’t come across that before. (SVF01, Stirling)

Best Practice Example

Town Break, Stirling Town Break was recommended by many people as a good example of a supportive organsiation for volunteers in dementia care. They showed clear support for volunteers at the beginning of their roles by providing several training opportunities linked with the Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC).

The personal support from staff was noted as always being available and the range of volunteer roles to choose from helped volunteers stay and build loyalty.