Right now, almost 5,000 people in the Bristol area are living with dementia. It affects people in kaleidoscopic ways, but thankfully, there are just as many opportunities for volunteers in the city to make a difference, Copyright investigates.
The Bristol branch of Alzheimer’s Society supports people with dementia (the umbrella term for a number of symptoms most commonly caused by Alzheimer’s), people being diagnosed with dementia, their carers, and family members.
Alzheimer’s Society run a wide range of volunteer groups, and everyone’s welcome – even terrible singers, for example, are welcome to join the charity’s popular singing group. All of these groups need volunteers for meeting, greeting, and serving refreshments. But in many cases, just your presence is enough. The befriending scheme works towards this paradigm too. Volunteers are matched for regular one-to-one sessions with someone who shares similar interests and has dementia.
These initiatives need money, and it goes without saying that an important element of volunteering for Alzheimer’s Society is fundraising. ‘We’re open to any ideas,’ says Paula Shears, Alzheimer’s Society Services Manager for Bristol. ‘You name it, we could probably find you an opportunity to do it.
‘So long as you’re passionate about making a difference for people with dementia and people who are affected by dementia, you’ll be very welcome here.’
You don’t need any experience, any training any special skills, or the ability to commit regularly. All you need to do is give it a go.
A growing network
Local organisation Growing Support helps people with dementia through horticulture. The organisation offers relief from this debilitating disease through gardening projects. Growing Support works in 30 care homes and community gardens in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath. The organisation itself is growing, and needs support. The benefits of being outside and connecting with nature are well documented. But, because people with dementia can have limited communication abilities, how does Growing Support measure success? According to its Director, Victoria Hill, it’s mainly down to observation, ‘You measure smiling, laughing, eye contact, waking up, essentially.’
As with Alzheimer’s Society, volunteers don’t need any experience and are given full training beforehand. Echoing Paula’s sentiment, Victoria explains, ‘We just want people who are interested, friendly, and patient.’ This list of volunteer opportunities and organisations is not exhaustive. There’s always more. Like the Dementia Action Alliance, a nationwide organisation that raises awareness and who’s objective locally is to make Bristol the UK’s most dementia-friendly city.
All of the volunteering opportunities in Bristol are united by a common goal, engagement. It’s about getting volunteers to engage with people who have dementia, which should help them to engage with their community too.
For more information about how you can help, find out how to get involved with any of the organisations mentioned by visiting their websites: