Asume, Attract

Impact on carer

Many of the volunteers believed their volunteering had a positive impact on carers. The impact on the carer was mostly described as providing them with the chance to take a break from having sole responsibility over the person with dementia. However, it was also described as a positive impact where interactions with the group could support the carer through their day and give them something to look forward too. Furthermore, the impact and support received by the carer was linked to the idea that volunteers could create a ‘safe space’ for carers to relax in, free from judgement and stigma that can be experienced in the outside world. Importantly here, volunteering with those with dementia and the carers is clearly seen as a package.

The view among many volunteers was that they were helping to share the load or to give carers a break. The activities themselves were also linked to the potential impact. Here it was not only having a break from caring responsibilities but also being able to participate in the activities being facilitated by volunteers. The activities therefore provided respite, enjoyment and social links that would perhaps not have been available without volunteers. The impact that volunteers had on carers was also acknowledged by those with dementia.

Some carers we spoke to could also be hesitant in regards to the impact of volunteers on themselves and the person living with dementia. For example, when accessing families through housing associations (i.e. not a voluntary body) the evidence of any impact of volunteering was less clear on the carer. Often, the people we spoke to had clear and supportive family structures around them and had difficulty in seeing where volunteers fit or could fit into their networks. They were strongly against anything they saw as interference. So overall, the findings indicate that volunteers and people living with dementia were more likely to see the positive impacts on the carer. However, some of the carers we spoke too were less likely to have as positive a viewpoint around impact on either themselves or the people with dementia.

Figure 3 shows the specific activities that are undertaken by volunteers from these organisations that relate to volunteering and dementia care. We see that 76% of organisations have volunteers help with organising events or activities. Other common volunteer activities are raising money, administrative work, general helping out or help upon request. Activities that are relatively less common include volunteer management, committee work, campaigning, training or coaching, IT support and answering enquires.

Just [for the people that attend the group] to have an enjoyable time, and particularly for the carers that come. I think they’re just as important, in fact if not more so. {Female volunteer, Cumbria)

But it shows you this is where you can do as much as you can for the person with dementia, but it’s the carer that’s the one, that’s the target, type of thing {Male volunteer, Stirlingshire}.

So it just gives me a wee break, you know, it’s good that way………Yes, it takes a lot of pressure off of me, and it’s good for [name] to get out with other folk, I think. You know, instead of just being together, the two of us, though. {Male Carer, Stirlingshire}.