Language no barrier to compassion

People living with dementia can sometimes find it hard to communicate but when English is the second language it is not uncommon for people to revert to their mother tongue.

One 89-year-old lady at Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre Residential Care in Gwelup has lost the ability to speak in English and now uses her native Russian to communicate with people.

Thanks to the kindness of Marina, a Russian speaking volunteer who visits Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre, the resident is now able to converse with someone other than just her family members.

Marina volunteers at Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre as a volunteer visitor with the Community Visitors Scheme and is just one example of how volunteers can make a big difference in the lives of seniors in our community.

More than six million Australians volunteer their time to help brighten the lives of others, and their help has a profound and positive impact on our communities.

Kerry Kenny is the coordinator of the Community Visitors Scheme with Baptistcare and believes that volunteers are a vital asset to the community.

“Many elderly people can be socially isolated whether they are at home or in a residential care facility. As they age, they may find it difficult to maintain connections with others and may experience loneliness.”

“There are many reasons why family and friends are unable to visit regularly and there are many seniors across WA who miss having a chat and crave companionship.”

“A volunteer can provide much needed companionship, support and friendship,” she said.

The benefits to the care recipient may include an increase in self-esteem, diminished feelings of anxiety, isolation and loneliness.

The relationship is mutually beneficial with many volunteers reporting that their role provides them with a sense of purpose and fulfilment, especially for those volunteers who have left the workforce after retirement.

According to Kerry Kenny, the minimum requirement for Community Visitors Scheme volunteers is a fortnightly visit, with many volunteers eager to do more than that.

“A good volunteer should have genuine empathy and an understanding of older people, good communication and listening skills, and a bit of spare time,” she said.

Hannah Motamedi, Lifestyle Coordinator at Baptistcare David Buttfield Centre, agrees that volunteering is a win-win situation and values the contribution volunteers make to the facility.

“We have pet therapy, music therapy and several other activities all run by our wonderful volunteers.”

“Their contribution is enormous and we value the good work they do,” she said.

The Community Visitors Scheme and Baptistcare work together to provide additional company for seniors across their 11 facilities in metropolitan and regional WA.

Baptistcare has more than 45 years’ experience providing care and residential living options for Western Australians in their senior years.

For more information about the Baptistcare Volunteer Scheme, visit