Understanding the role of volunteering in the future of dementia care

Research project: Understanding the role of volunteering in the future of dementia care

Lead Investigator: Professor Heather Wilkinson

  • Institution: University of Edinburgh
  • Grant type: PhD studentship
  • Duration: 36 months 
  • Amount: £72,093

Why did we fund this research?

From experience of volunteers assisting my late husband and myself in various roles, I strongly endorse the need to explore these roles further and look at the motivation and the values for all parties.

Project summary

This project will explore the experiences of people living with dementia receiving support from volunteers. It will also look at the experiences of the volunteers themselves.

The team hope to explore the role volunteers play in dementia care and to develop practical guidelines to support volunteers working with people living with dementia.

The background 

Although it is well known that support social networks are important for people affected by dementia, many people still experience loneliness and isolation.

Volunteers can provide emotional and social support to people living with dementia and their carers.

This is particularly important in rural communities where professional dementia care can be less accessible. 

There has been a rise in the number of volunteers in the UK, with almost 4 in 10 people volunteering. However, there has not been much research looking at the benefits volunteers have on dementia care. 

What does this project involve?

The project will explore: 

  • the experiences of people affected by dementia;
  • the experiences of volunteers who work with people affected by dementia; and 
  • the relationship between volunteers and the people affected by dementia they support. 

The research team will interview people affected by dementia to find out about their experiences. They will hold focus groups with volunteers who work with people living with dementia. This will also involve an exercise to develop practical guidance tips for volunteers. 

The team will observe conversations between volunteers and the people with dementia they volunteer with. They aim to capture the realities of the relationship between volunteers and people living with dementia. 

How will this project help people with dementia?

This project will provide guidance to support future volunteer schemes involving people affected by dementia. 

The team also hope to provide more evidence of the importance of enabling people living with dementia to take part in activities which they enjoy and feel they can make a meaningful contribution to. This research could help inform to policy makers of the importance of volunteering in dementia care. 

Get involved

Volunteer with the Alzheimer's Society and make a difference to everyone affected by dementia.

Find out more
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