The organisational survey showed that training for volunteers is seen as very important by volunteer agencies. Around 93% of them reported providing training to their volunteers no matter whether they support people living with dementia (and/or their family members or carers) or volunteer in other roles. Guidance on volunteer management emphasises the importance of providing volunteers with training, and this would appear to be even more pertinent for volunteers working with people with dementia.
Volunteers identified a range of training needs for people volunteering with people in dementia care, including support to address stigma and potential fear among volunteers through to more practical aspects of support such as first aid and learning about appropriate activities for people with dementia. Most volunteers reported some level of training but for some this had taken place a number of years earlier and for others it was very basic. A minority of volunteers noted they had regular training and contact and this was an element that kept them feeling secure, linked into the organisation and confident in the support they could draw on if needed.
Training on a wide range of subjects was reported: dementia, advocacy, moving and handling, first aid, food hygiene, communication, difficult behaviour but a few reported no training at all. There were some very good examples of training for volunteers. The findings indicate, however, that access to and offers of training were variable. It was often dependent on one individual and the main contact for the volunteer (often the volunteer coordinator).
Taking away perhaps the fear element, but I don’t know how you can without getting them there first. Because I think a lot of people have a fear of dealing with people with dementia in case something flares up. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)
In the four years I’ve had no training whatsoever, even though the [organisation] promised this training and you know, this should happen and you should have these weeks of this and all that; nothing has ever happened. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)
I think although I feel it because of my HNC, I don’t know if I would feel prepared if I hadn’t have had my college training. (Female volunteer, Stirling)
S’s thing was brilliant. She sent us on loads and loads of courses for dementia and craftwork and all that sort of thing – we’ve been on loads and loads of courses. (Female volunteer, Cumbria)