The evolving practice of volunteering in aged care

Young male volunteer with older lady holding a walking stick, both looking at the phone the young man is holding

Early this year, Dr Megan Paull and Dr Sally Paulin from Murdoch University co-authored a Lotterywest funded report for Volunteering WA that delves into the experiences of volunteers in aged care settings.

Dr Paull and Dr Paulin discovered that, although some organisations were succeeding, unclear communication, changing health advice and organisational policies were the key issues that affected volunteers in the Western Australian aged care sector during COVID-19.  

The report, ‘Volunteering in Aged Care Settings in WA’, led to the development of good practice guides during COVID-19 and beyond for a range of roles that relate to specific responsibilities associated with aged care volunteers. 

Dr Paull recently held a workshop at Swan Volunteer Resource Centre to share some of the recommendations from the report. 

“The session was attended by both volunteers and volunteer managers, and the first half was me presenting our research, with the second half being about discussion of key questions raised by the group,” said Dr Paull. 

Dr Paull said the aged care sector is still an area where more volunteers are needed but navigating COVID-19 is still tricky at times.  

“The value of such sessions is in the opportunity for everyone to share their experiences and just as much is learned from fellow attendees as from me as the facilitator.” 

Elizabeth Acason, Supervisor at the Swan Volunteer Resource Centre, said the session allowed attendees to reflect on their experiences over the last two years. 

“This was a valuable session that allowed those attending to reflect upon the past two years and highlighted the fact that all aged care providers are experiencing the same issues,” she said. 

“It was good to see concrete research supporting what has been a challenging and often isolating period for those working and volunteering in the sector. 

“Feedback from those attending was positive and encouraging to know that their voices have been heard.” 

Acason said volunteers are important and encourages anyone wishing to volunteer to attend the City of Swan Volunteering Expo held in October 2022. 

Through their research, Dr Paull and Dr Paulin found that several changes to the volunteering journey were implemented during COVID-19 and they discuss which of these changes would likely stay as a part of the new process. 

Video interviews, online inductions and training, diversity in volunteer age groups, vaccination checks and mask wearing, and new remote volunteering roles are likely to be part of the experience from here on out. 

These new processes will need guidelines, which is where the good practice guides can support volunteers, volunteer managers, supervisors/co-ordinators, paid staff who work alongside volunteers, and senior managers and board members.  

Each guide includes key COVID-19 takeaways, frequently asked questions, and highlights the issues found through the research, particularly communications surrounding new health policies, boundaries, consistency, and support services.  

The report and good practice guides have already begun the process of improving volunteering experiences and creating new opportunities in aged care settings. 

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Posted on:

9 Sep 2022



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