Community Visitors
Scheme

The Community Visitors Scheme at Brookvale Family Centre, run by Centacare, organises volunteers to visit socially or culturally isolated people living in aged care homes.

Summary of Learnings

Fifteen years ago the Federal Government, Department of Health and Ageing set up and funded the Community Visitors Programme. It is a programme to have community volunteers visit socially or culturally isolated people living in federally funded aged care homes.

From the start the programme was always run by non Government organisations. Centacare Brookvale Family Centre works independently but liases with Lifeline Balgowlah who also Co-ordinate CVS in the area.

Lifeline covers the Nursing Homes in the area Manly to Dee Why and Centacare covers Dee Why to Avalon. The two agencies often work together.

Centacare has thirteen aged care homes to cover and has been allocated, by the Federal Government capacity to support 47 volunteers.

The program is co-ordinated by Rosemary Edgar who is employed by Centacare. As part of her responsibilities Rosemary recruits and trains volunteers.

Advertising for volunteers is conducted through parish newsletters, the local newspaper The Manly Daily and in school bulletins.

Those that respond to these advertisements must then be screened, which involves both a police check and checking with referees. Once volunteers have passed this screening process they are “matched.”

With regard to placement Rosemary tries to match personalities; experience in dealing with people has given Rosemary a good insight into who to match with whom, though she readily admits on occasion she has been surprised with the compatibility of some of the matches.

A wide cross section of people respond to the invitation to participate in this program including newly retired people looking to do voluntary work, people looking for a pathway to employment, young mothers who may not have a connection to any older members of the community, and parishioners from local parishes looking to “live their faith”.

Some young people that have been participating in programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have also participated as volunteers.

In the volunteers Rosemary is looking for a commitment of at least twelve months (20 visits) and does try to stress this at the beginning of the program. The program is to form friendships so a commitment of time is required so that a relationship can be established.

Volunteers come from all walks of life, the average time of volunteering is two years, and some have been volunteering for five to ten years. Often the volunteer ceases to participate when the resident that they are visiting dies. If a volunteer is to continue after this they are given a grieving period before being allocated another resident to visit.

Volunteers to the program are offered many types of support. On commencing volunteers are given training and guidelines.

Rosemary accompanies them on their first visit, follows up for their second and third and then keeps in regular contact by phone or email.

 

Rosemary organises workshops for volunteers to attend, the last one was on dementia.

Lifeline has monthly meetings with guest speakers and Centacare volunteers are invited to join them.

There are breakfast mornings for the volunteers, usually during Volunteer Week and at the end of the year.

Volunteers are also given “rewards” every now and then; this could be movie tickets, gift vouchers, restaurant vouchers etc. This is a way of saying thank you.

The residents of the aged care facilities that are visited in the program are people who do not receive visits from family or friends and are usually identified by the Recreational Officer of the home. They contact Rosemary with the resident’s details; she visits and identifies a volunteer to match up.

While the majority of the referrals come from the homes, occasionally a family member can contact Rosemary asking for someone to visit their relative.

 

 

Most of the time there is a lovely connection between the volunteer and resident. The residents look forward to their weekly/fortnightly visit. For many deep bonds are made. Volunteers feel like they are welcomed friends and are treated as family members.

The program is fully funded by the Federal Government. This funding covers the coordinators costs and all volunteers’ costs. Volunteers are offered car mileage or transport costs. There are a few volunteers on pensions so they claim costs, though it seems most waive the reimbursement. One volunteer takes the resident out for coffee and cake at the local cafe, this cost is reimbursed.

There is regular contact between the coordinator, Lifeline, the homes and volunteers.

The volunteers talk regularly with Rosemary, helping Rosemary to identify problems, give encouragement or advice and monitor the relationship of the volunteer and resident. This enables Rosemary to know and understand the personalities of the people in her care.

Summary of Learnings

  • The program involves a large number of volunteers who are recruited from a variety of sources including local papers, parish newsletter and school bulletins
     
  • New volunteers are offered training and support; they are accompanied on their first few visits and attend workshops. Volunteers are also invited to attend thank you breakfasts

 

 

  • The program involves co-ordination with a variety of local aged care facilities, other providers and government organisations

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001
news@dbb.org.au

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