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elderly female patient in a wheelchair holding hands with a younger woman.

Volunteers make a positive impact in improving nursing home residents’ lives, enriching their community

Published on Apr 08, 2019

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” — Winston Churchill

It is National Volunteer Week and time to thank and recognize the ways volunteers contribute to nursing homes that enrich the lives of thousands of people.

It takes a community to help care for our seniors and other individuals needing skilled nursing, rehabilitation or long-term care. While centers are staffed with professionals in nursing, activities, housekeeping and food services, it is with the help of volunteers across the nation who take their time and effort to make nursing home patients’ lives extra special.

Benefits of volunteering

Not only can volunteering benefit the residents of skilled nursing center, there is research that reveals volunteering is just as good for you, the volunteer!

Some of those benefits include expanding social connections, reducing stress and anxiety, increased self-confidence, providing individuals with a sense of purpose and helping people to stay physically healthy.

Many volunteers in nursing homes may be older adults and it lets them stay connected with others as their social circles shrink from retirement, friends and family moving away. Plus, older volunteers who may have lost their spouse can find new meaning in their lives by giving their time to others.  Also, families end up volunteering at nursing homes to remain close and involved in the lives of their loved ones.

There are numerous instances where a loved one has passed away, and yet the family still volunteers at the center because of the relationships they built over the years. These volunteers may help decorate a center for Christmas, buy small gifts for the residents or whatever they can to make a difference.  

Youth volunteering is a part of the good things happening in skilled nursing centers. 4H groups, youth church groups and individual volunteers spend time helping seniors and possibly learning some important life lessons from residents.

That is why national, and state skilled nursing and assisted living associations recognize adult and youth volunteers as a major part of their award initiatives each year. The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) names annually an adult and youth volunteer of the year. These individuals typically have been recognized at the state level for their dedication to improve the lives of seniors.

Opportunities for volunteering in nursing homes

There are many opportunities in nursing homes for people looking to volunteer and make a difference in their community. Volunteers can enrich nursing home patients’ lives through a variety of ways. Individuals interested in gardening can volunteer at a center in their community by helping plant and tend gardens, growing vegetables and building raised gardens for patients in wheelchairs.

It is common to hear Johnny Cash or other music playing from a center’s dining or activity areas. Musicians volunteer their time and talents at local nursing homes by entertaining the residents and employees. If a center doesn’t already have local musicians already volunteering at their center, there are many ways a nursing home can reach out to their local music community for volunteers.

Another growing area of volunteerism in skilled nursing centers is exercise or yoga instructors leading residents in programs modified for seniors and those individuals in wheelchairs. Incorporating the ideals of yoga and movements have a positive impact on everyone who can participate.

There are many ways anyone can volunteer at their local nursing home. For more information call your local center and ask how you can make a difference or visit to learn more about volunteering.     

Author: Brandon S. Totten, MAJ, is the Community Relations Manager for AMFM Nursing & Rehabilitation Centers.