Have you ever thought about volunteering but don’t know where to start? Or don’t know how to make the most significant impact? Volunteering at a nursing home is a great way to expand your horizons and make a difference in other people’s lives.

Why do Nursing Homes Need Volunteers?

Nursing homes and assisted living residences spend much of their time providing round-the-clock nursing care to the residents in the building. The nurses, administrators, and paraprofessionals work closely to ensure every resident is taken care of and doing their daily tasks, but that often leaves little time for socializing and entertainment for the older adults living in the community. That’s where volunteers come in.

Nursing homes rely on volunteers to come and interact on a more social and friendly level with the residents. Mental stimulation and socializing are as integral a part of the care of these elderly individuals as their pain, and medication management is. Volunteers can help bring a sense of home into the facility by playing card games with residents, hosting dances or musical performances, or simply just sitting and having lunch with them to chat.

Some other ways volunteers can help are providing manicures to the residents, hosting bingo night, decorating the corridors and bedrooms for the changing seasons, helping residents tidy up their rooms, or just stopping by for a visit. It can be lonely in those nursing homes, especially when families can only visit so often. So the volunteers become an integral part of the team and the lives of the nursing home residents.

What are the Requirements to Volunteer with Seniors?

There aren’t many requirements or specified training you need to become a volunteer at a nursing home. However, you do need to have a good attitude, enjoy being around older adults, be sociable, and know how to play games. This can, of course, change depending on the nursing home and when it comes to working with more vulnerable adults.

Requirements

At the bare minimum, you need to meet the following requirements:

  • Love being around older people
  • Have a pleasant personality and presence
  • Know how to play card games like bridge, canasta, pinochle, rummy, cribbage, etc
  • For teenage volunteers, be at least 15 years old.
  • Be able to transport residents in wheelchairs safely
  • Have reliable transportation to and from the nursing home
  • Be able to schedule and manage small events
  • Have a professional but laid back demeanor
  • A background check to ensure the safety of the other residents

Extra Training

Some volunteers may choose to be involved more one-on-one with more advanced residents in end-of-life care. This allows them to make a huge impact on someone’s life and requires a bit more training to serve those individuals properly. Volunteers in these positions should undergo the following training:

  • An understanding and knowledge of how and where to get emergency assistance if needed
  • How to handle and discuss death and dying
  • Grief support training
  • Hospice basic training*
  • Counseling to ensure they are mentally prepared to handle patients in hospice

*The Hospice Foundation of America has dozens of free resources for volunteers and employees in nursing homes here.

a female volunteer at a nursing home giving food to an elderly resident

The Benefits of Being a Nursing Home Volunteer.

There are so many benefits to being a nursing home volunteer, both personally and for the individuals you serve.

  • You’ll gain life lessons from your elders.
  • You’ll make a ton of new friends, both in the staff you meet and the residents.
  • You add job experience to your resume.
  • You gain personal fulfillment out of helping others
  • You’ll learn valuable skills in compassion, patience, and understanding
  • You will make the lives of those you serve more vibrant and enjoyable
  • You will learn how to respect others
  • You can more easily navigate the process of life and death and everything that comes with it.
  • You will leave a lasting imprint on the residents and families you’ve worked with
  • You can learn how to play bridge from the best players in the game.

How to Find Volunteer Opportunities.

Covid had definitely put a damper on when, where, and how people could volunteer and help in the nursing home setting. But as things begin to come back to “normal,” nursing homes need help more than ever. Check your local paper or online job listings for volunteer opportunities. Or simply call up your local nursing home or assisted living facilities and ask if they need volunteers.

To get started with potential volunteer opportunities, give Sunflower Communities a call, and we can answer any questions you may have, and maybe we even have some positions available. We look forward to speaking with you!