Saluting home care’s volunteers

Aged care providers have been celebrating their dedicated army of unpaid support staff.

Aged care providers have celebrated their dedicated army of unpaid support staff this month.

Held annually, National Volunteer Week commemorates the more than five million people across Australia who selflessly give up their time for free, thousands of whom volunteer in home care settings.

Dementia care provider HammondCare used the event to spur a volunteer drive. Although, in all, it has around 750 volunteers on the books, numbers are down due to the Covid pandemic.

To boost numbers, HammondCare has launched a video campaign to find people willing to volunteer in residential aged care, home care, and hospitals in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, and Victoria.

“I invite you to come and share your passion because you will be surprised the joy you will bring,” said HammondCare chief executive Mike Baird in the video.

Charlise Hannagan (right) with Mollie

The roles on offer are varied and include facilitating music and art therapy and providing one-on-one companionship.

At 21, Charlise Hannagan is one of HammondCare’s youngest volunteers. Along with dog Mollie, Ms Hannagan offers her time to visit home care clients.

An NDIS support worker who wants to study medicine next year, Ms Hannagan finds volunteering rewarding. “We have a chat, have a cup of tea or some gardening to help out and they can join in.”

“I love volunteering and being with people.”

South Australian retirement living and home care provider ECH has more than 100 volunteers across its sites. One of the longest-serving is Gail Ellis, who has been with ECH since 2015.

Ms Ellis was “looking for something to do” after resigning from her job in diversional therapy. “I would drive past the Smithfield Day Program and kept thinking ‘I’ll drop in, I’ll drop in’ – and one day I did, and it went from there,” she said.

In 2021, Mrs Ellis took a break from volunteering when she underwent a lung transplant, but that did not stop her from returning after her recovery.

“I love volunteering and being with people; you see that glint in their eye, you make them smile and have lots of laughs.”

John Fielke volunteers as an ECH bus driver and ferries residents across the state as far as Coober Pedy. “People think I’m selfless doing this,” said Mr Fielke, “but it’s actually a bit selfish because I’m doing something for me. It’s not a matter of dropping the clients off, I participate in the day trip as well.”

Bus-driving now for six years, Mr Fielke said: “It keeps me active and it’s something I always wanted to do (be a bus driver), but never did. ECH has a community culture.”

Claire Scapinello

ECH chief executive Claire Scapinello said volunteers provide tremendous support to residents and staff alike and spread joy, raise smiles and encourage community spirit across its sites. “During the past financial year, 116 volunteers provided 6095 hours of volunteer time.

“We are truly grateful to our volunteers who give so generously of their time. It is through their support that we are able to offer such a wide array of social activities and community engagement programs.”

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Tags: Claire Scapinello, ech, hammondcare, mike baird,

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