“Volunteering has made my transition from carer much easier”

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National Volunteer Week (17-23 May) is an important opportunity to celebrate the significant contribution of Australia’s almost six million volunteers.

With this year’s theme being Recognise. Reconnect. Reimagine., we are taking the opportunity to recognise the more than 1,000 Dementia Australia volunteers who make a difference to the lives of people living with dementia, their families and carers and share their stories.

Chris Finley became a Dementia Australia Volunteer more than five years ago after caring for his late wife Wendy who lived with dementia.

“Being a carer for about 15 years, six of which were 24/7 and three of which were as a visitor to a nursing home, the obvious thought was to give back, not so much to the organisation that had been so helpful, but to the individuals who had supported me through the role.”

Over his time as a volunteer with Dementia Australia, Chris has had many roles including sharing his experience as a carer in medical student roleplay and Blokes in a Caring Role sessions, participating in our regular Track ‘n’ Chat Walking Group, course supervision at Memory Walk & Jog, supporting Dementia Australia stands at community events and providing technical support at Enabling EDIE™ workshops.

The impacts of COVID-19 have meant that some volunteer experiences have been reimagined to be offered online, but Chris has enjoyed the opportunity to continue to volunteer at a time when many were not able to do so.

“Face-to-face Blokes in a Caring Role sessions were at times quite confronting when digging up old memories, but this is a somewhat cathartic exercise,” he said.

“The most common client reaction is that it is really great to talk to someone who has been there. These blokes really care. I know I have made a tangible difference to many of the blokes and to be able to do this on Zoom with an interstate group has been most rewarding.

“The original “Track ‘n’ Chat walks were easy as all we did was move between clients sharing life experiences, just as you do between friends. COVID-19 morphed this into Virtual Cuppa sessions on Zoom. At first, I felt these were outside my comfort zone but they turned out to be as easy as the Track ‘n’ Chat. Lovely conversations with lovely people.

“There was no deliberate intention but volunteering has certainly made my transition from carer to live alone widower much easier and I suspect greatly eased the grieving process. They say volunteering prolongs life so perhaps in 20 years I will receive a congratulatory letter from King William!”

Dementia Australia volunteers assist us to change the community’s understanding and perspective of dementia.

Volunteers are integral to the work that we do at Dementia Australia and we are extremely grateful for the generosity and compassion our volunteers bring to their roles.

Without volunteers we simply could not do all of the work that we do, so this week and every week we say a big thank you to them for their extraordinary contribution.

For more information, please visit our website: https://www.dementia.org.au/volunteering