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Volunteers needed to aid recovery of older patients across Morecambe Bay

Westmorland General Hospital

Royal Voluntary Service is calling on local people to dedicate a couple of hours a week to help aid the recovery of older patients on wards at Morecambe Bay’s hospitals.

Volunteers are needed to provide support to older patients to improve their mobility, nutrition and hydration at Lancaster Royal Infirmary, Furness General Hospital and Westmorland General Hospital as well as at the Ulverston Community Health Centre.

The voluntary roles will involve supporting those with dementia, or who are in hospital for a long period, to help aid their recovery and stop further decline. This will primarily comprise of engaging patients in gentle chair-based exercises sessions to build their muscle strength, mobility and independence. Volunteers will be asked to run these sessions as a group activity or one-to-one, as appropriate for the patient, with music, balls and games used to a create fun, interactive activity.  The role would be ideal for someone with an interest in fitness and who can motivate and inspire others to exercise.

Volunteers will also undertake cognitive exercises with patients to improve memory function and provide advice on hydration and nutrition.

Chair-based or gentle exercise is critical for older people because of the rapid loss of muscle mass experienced in later life, and which can be accelerated during a stay in hospital. Indeed, figures from the National Audit Office released in 2016 suggested 5% of muscle strength is lost per day in hospital amongst those aged 65 and over. This muscle loss can increase the likelihood of a further fall or injury after discharge and the chance of readmission.

Royal Voluntary Service has around 300 volunteers providing support across three of Morecambe Bay’s Hospitals – from being there to meet and greet people as they come in to serving customers in its cafes and shops.  But additional on ward volunteers are now needed to reach more of the patients in need. No experience is necessary and all training will be provided.”

Jessica Toft, On Ward Service Manager at Royal Voluntary Service said: “We know targeted resistance-based exercises can significantly help older adults improve their physical function. With our volunteers providing this to older patients on wards, it can help aid patient’s recovery, reduce their chance of readmission and also improve their overall experience in hospital. Volunteering a couple of hours on ward may not seem like much, but it makes a massive difference. Our volunteers are fantastic and they really enjoy what they do. They get as much out of volunteering as they put in.”

A former on ward volunteer at Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Louise Munro, has recently joined Royal Voluntary Service as an employee. Talking about her experience as a volunteer, Louise said: “The patients are very well cared for but it is often said that for every 10 days in hospital, 10 years of muscle aging can occur in elderly patients. As volunteers we have the time to spend reminiscing, doing activities and exercises in a group with some music. Some patients have said the atmosphere on the ward shifts when there are volunteers around, and I like to think we take a little pressure from the ward staff too. Since joining Royal Voluntary Service I’ve had a real impact on patients and their hospital experience and I love knowing I can make a difference.”

Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with over 20,000 volunteers supporting thousands of people each month in hospitals and in the community.  The simple acts of kindness our volunteers provide, whether popping in for tea and a chat, helping out with a lift to a GP or social appointment or running chair-based exercises on ward, help make communities stronger and relieve the pressure on overstretched public services. The charity is also one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafes and shops providing a valued haven in hospitals.

To find out more about the volunteer opportunities contact the Royal Voluntary Service hub office at [email protected] or by phone on 01539 760001 . Alternatively, please visit www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk

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