Volunteers' Experiences Visiting the Cognitively Impaired in Nursing Homes: A Friendly Visiting Program

School of Social Work, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON.
Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue canadienne du vieillissement 12/2007; 26(04). DOI: 10.3138/cja.26.4.343
Source: PubMed


Two challenges facing nursing-home care today are understanding the concept of quality of life as it relates to cognitively impaired residents and finding effective ways to ensure that it is achieved. Canadian director Allan King's documentary, Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company, filmed at Baycrest, captures a method for enhancing the quality of life of six cognitively impaired residents. While the film suggests an intervention model implemented by volunteers, there are challenges unique to institution-based programs (i.e., the recruitment and retention of volunteers). One of the challenges is the fear that volunteers may experience when interacting with the cognitively impaired. We conducted a pilot study of a model for training volunteers to provide friendly visiting and evaluated the impact on the participating residents. Observational accounts of volunteer–resident interactions and seven volunteer interviews were analysed and yielded several themes—(a) relationship building, (b) contribution of the environment, (c) preserving personhood, (d) resident-centred presence and the quality of the moment—and several themes related to the volunteers' role and their perceived impact on the residents. Discussed are the implications for volunteer programs in long-term health care settings.

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Available from: Thecla Damianakis
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    • "Although a relatively small proportion of all volunteers visit nursing homes (Damianakis et al., 2007), three-quarters of aged care facilities in our region did work with volunteers. In this urban area, facilities worked with an average of five volunteers each and a total of 213 hours per week was spent volunteering across all sites. "
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