Day in the life of a Barchester Volunteer

Barchester recognises the special impact that all our volunteers have on the lives of the people who live in our homes and hospitals. 

Volunteers work alongside paid staff but the role they play is very different. By choosing to spend some of their spare time at a home or hospital, volunteers break down barriers and help homes build stronger links with local people and groups, while also benefiting residents and patients through use of their own time and skills.

Everyone has their own reason for choosing to volunteer. Some individuals may have an existing or past link to a care home they would like to continue through voluntary work, often because of a relative or friend who has lived at the home. Others will first come across the home or hospital when exploring volunteering opportunities in the area.

Tom, a retired librarian from Cheshire, began volunteering at 62 and gives some of his free time to the home to honour his mother, who passed away four years ago at a Barchester care home. In appreciation for the care provided to his mum towards the end of her life, Tom spends a couple of days each week supporting the Activities Coordinator and General Manager at the home with events and day-to-day activities.

Morning: Paper crafts and chatting

I arrive mid-morning to help set up today's craft activity and there's already plenty going on inside the home. I talk to our Activity Coordinator to find out what needs doing and get to setting out the bits needed for the session. Most of the residents have long finished their breakfast but there are a few that have lingered in the communal areas to have a cup of tea or chat to their friends. I recognise a couple from last week's outing to the wildlife park so I smile and have a quick chat with them before they head off to their chosen activities. Today some of the volunteers are running a regular prayer group, which is always popular, so a number of the residents are making their way to the session.

This morning I'm scheduled to help out at a paper craft session where each resident will create a variety of different pieces using templates the Activities Coordinator has created. I sit with one of the residents who often has trouble with her dexterity because of arthritis. She wants to make a birthday card for her granddaughter so I help her cut and stick bits in the right places. It takes a while to get the design right but once we’re happy with it then help to her write the card and seal the envelope. There are three other ladies on our table sat with other volunteers so there's plenty of chatting and laughing to distract us but we manage to complete the card, and I put it with the collection to post.

Afternoon: Cups of tea and games

At lunchtime, the rest of the volunteers and I usually find something to eat off campus so the residents can enjoy their meals with their friends. This afternoon I'm not assigned to any specific activity, so instead I make cups of tea and coffee for the residents and enjoy chatting to the residents who spend the afternoon relaxing.

Sometimes I'll play a board game with a few residents, but today I just sit and talk to two who I don't recognise. They've not long moved in so it's nice to get to know them a little better, and find out more about their families who are due to visit tomorrow. It can be a little scary when you’re new to the home and don’t know anyone yet, so I try to help just having a chat and a cup of tea, and sharing my experience with the home to make someone feel more at ease. 

A volunteer-run massage service is about to start, so I say my goodbyes as I pass another one of the regular volunteers taking around the trolley filled with treats to the residents who a physically limited.

Heading home

Before I sign out for the day, I check with our Activities Coordinator about my next shift. She needs someone to help out on a trip to the library next week so I put myself forward. I love books and reading in general so I'm really looking forward to it, we are thinking to start a reading club at the home for staff and for residents. I say goodbye to the team and the residents in the communal areas before heading home. I feel really happy when I’ve spent time at the home, I’ve made wonderful friends with the staff and the residents and there is always something to do. It’s a really peaceful space and after my mum passed away, I always feel a little closer to her when I’m at the home where she lived with her friends.

How to become a Barchester Volunteer

If you would like to become a Barchester volunteer like Tom there are many support roles available. What you would like to contribute can depend on your own interests, along with the time you can commit and the needs of the people living at the home where you would like to begin voluntary work.

You may have a particular skill, such as singing, crafts or yoga, which you want to use to improve the lives of others. You may prefer to offer companionship to residents and come along regularly to sit and chat with people who may not usually receive frequent visitors.

How to apply

The best way to find out more about volunteering at your local Barchester home or hospital is to call the home directly and talk to the General Manager or Hospital Director. You do not need to have an existing link to the home or hospital to become a volunteer. Anyone interested in giving some of their time to help out is encouraged to get in touch. Please contact your local care home here.