Asume, Sustain - Volunteering in Dementia


Retention was cited as one of the challenges and difficulties facing organisations linked to dementia and volunteering. Table xx shows the kinds of support which agencies provide for their volunteers (including training). We see that the types of support provided to volunteers in dementia care are generally similar to that for volunteers in other roles. It is common for agencies to provide multiple types of support for their volunteers. On average, each agency provides around 5 different types of support; and there is no difference between volunteers in dementia care and other volunteers. In additional to training, the most frequently mentioned supports are group meetings, supervision, and reimbursement.

  • Table 6: Volunteer support for people with dementia, their family members or carers and volunteers in other roles
Volunteers in dementia care Volunteers in other roles
Freq. Percent Freq. Percent
Training courses or workshops 79 92.9% 66 93.0%
Group meetings 70 82.4% 61 85.9%
One to one peer support system 53 62.4% 41 57.8%
Group peer support activities 39 45.9% 36 50.7%
Online/virtual/telephone peer support 32 37.7% 33 46.5%
Supervision 64 75.3% 57 80.3%
Travel/expenses reimbursement 69 81.2% 61 85.9%
Other 15 17.7% 17 23.9%
Total 421 372

Support from a named person was important to volunteers who could experience difficult situations within their volunteering role. The volunteer coordinator or equivalent was often best placed to support volunteers. Volunteers need someone they can speak to in confidence and to share concerns with. There were several good examples of this from participants in this project highlighting the importance of this type of support. Volunteer coordinators often played a key role in matching volunteers to their roles or to a specific person, for example, in a befriending scheme. Providing volunteers with roles and befrienders that match their skills and personality is important in sustaining volunteering relationships and roles.

Retention is also an issue in the current highly competitive job market, with our project relying on students and retirees, or underemployed part-time or sessional workers. Very few of the unemployed or underemployed volunteers we engage remain for the full 6 month minimum duration, as they are generally not unemployed or underemployed through personal choice and often find new employment very quickly after registering with us. Very few people in employment feel they have the required time or support from their employer to participate properly, and those that do are generally unavailable during weekdays, which is when most of our service users want our support (Organisational survey).

We have a support network because H I spoke about, she’s the befriender coordinator. She’s also on the welfare committee but if we feel we’ve got anything that’s troubling us, shall we say, we can speak to H in confidence, total confidence, and she knows that, you know, what we tell her won’t go, you know, obviously we trust her and it’s a two way thing but you feel you’ve got back up as well that you can discuss things, you know, issues that you might be worried about. You do worry about your friend and it’s nice to be able to share it with someone that you know and you can trust and not, you know, somebody out-with the home as well that you’re not breaking any confidence by speaking to.