The non-profit Alzheimer Society of BC needs several volunteers to help Oak Bay residents and their families cope with the difficulties of living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Volunteers are needed to aid the Minds in Motion fitness and socialization program alongside recreation instructors and activity coordinators by making tea and coffee, providing snacks, supervising and offering a helping hand where needed.
Meriel Randerson, Support and Education Coordinator at the Greater Victoria Alzheimer Resource Centre, outlines the society’s ideal volunteer personality. “We’re looking for people who are outgoing and aren’t shy to approach people they don’t know,” she said, adding that patience and the ability to listen carefully are most important. “People tend to be slower when they have dementia. Somebody who’s a good communicator and who listens really well and makes sure they are really clear - that’s what we’re looking for.”
Social activities through the Minds in Motion Program include various cognitive games such as bingo and Trivial Pursuit, and pen and pencil exercises. “[The volunteers] are there at that point to hand out whatever is needed for the different games and rally some enthusiasm, help clients if they have any trouble.”
Volunteers are also needed to facilitate caregiver support groups. Support groups are held for caregivers dealing with the grief and loss of a family member, spouse or friend with dementia. Randerson says the notion of grief in relation to a living person is often misunderstood. “In the dementia journey, there are multiple losses throughout as somebody loses their parent or a spouse. It’s like having somebody at home who’s completely dependent on them for everything.”
Support group facilitators must be able to offer those caregivers a space to express their stories and emotions. Again, Randerson stresses, good listening skills are key to fulfilling a facilitator position. Advice is not generally given in the support group, though members can learn coping methods from other member stories.
Randerson said, “The support groups operate on the philosophy that people with similar issues are in a unique position to offer support to others on the same journey.”
Volunteers with The Alzheimer’s Society of BC are provided a weekend of training in Vancouver and ongoing training after returning to Victoria. All training expenses are paid.
“[Volunteers] are always supported in their role. One of the things we’re known for at The Alzheimer’s Society is giving a lot of support to our volunteers,” Randerson said. She added that experience in social work, nursing, or with people who have dementia are assets to the volunteer positions, but not necessary.
The Alzheimer’s Society has only five staff members. They run largely on the help from their 50 volunteers. Randerson said, “We couldn’t do what we do without volunteers, we couldn’t reach the numbers of families we reach and support. The importance of the volunteers is huge.”
A time commitment of 3 to 6 hours is required for those who choose to volunteer. For information on volunteering, contact the Greater Victoria Alzheimer Research Centre at (250) 382-2052 or at email@example.com.
More information on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias is available at alzheimerbc.org.