How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Some nursing home residents do not have children or close relatives living nearby. Subsequently, they rarely receive visitors. Even the most highly-regarded nursing home can be a lonely place without outside support. Volunteers assist residents in staying connected to the community and lend a crucial hand in filling their human need for companionship.

The types of duties volunteers perform can vary. Some individuals utilize their talents by singing, while others play musical instruments. Some exhibit their culinary acumen in cooking demonstrations, while others connect by leading activities such as bingo, cards, newsletter writing, informational seminars, or prayer groups.

One-on-one volunteerism in a nursing home is also important. These individuals might share conversation with a resident, take walks in or around the facility, play board games, read books, help create a memory board with valued mementos such as greeting cards, photos, and pictures. Almost any wholesome hobby can be shared, and residents enjoy the activity and savor the companionship.

Volunteering in a nursing home could also mean assisting the staff. Duties such as meal allocation, transporting patients from one part of the facility to another, or perhaps even passing out juice, provide much appreciated service. Nursing home personnel are very grateful when volunteers assist them.

If you’ve decided you might like to become a volunteer, the information below should provide some helpful tips to get started.

  • Perform a search of nursing home facilities in your local area (maybe using the Internet or phone book).
  • Select several nursing homes that seem interesting to you and call or visit. Make sure to inquire as to the volunteer programs available and training (if necessary).
  • Provide the staff with a schedule of your availability. Some volunteers work once a month. Other individuals work once a week. While a few work several times a week.
  • If it is within your ability, keep to your schedule. Both the resident and nursing home staff look forward to your arrival.
  • If something beyond your control should arise, alert the facility.

Volunteering reaps numerous rewards not only for the nursing home resident but also the unpaid helper. It is very gratifying to know that you have shared your talent, knowledge, and time, with someone in need. Volunteers are essential to any community because they set an example of selflessness and love. Now what can be more inspiring than that?

To volunteer at Knollwood Nursing Center, we can be reached weekdays from 9-6 at 508-853-6910 or weekends from 9-3. We’re always looking for volunteers!

This post may contain affiliate links, and I will be compensated (at no extra cost to you) when you make a purchase by clicking on my links.
How to volunteer at the local nursing home

I think January is the perfect time to recruit new volunteers for the nursing home. Why? Because many people resolve to make a positive difference in the lives of other people in the new year.

Today I’m reposting a popular article that I know will help as you look for new volunteers. What ideas can you add to my list? Please share in the comment section!

  • Keep an eye on visitors as potential volunteers. Does a visitor show a particular interest in the animals? Invite them to be a volunteer dog walker. Is a visitor especially good at communicating with residents in the memory care unit? Invite them to help with activities.
  • Write a newspaper article about something special going on at your nursing home and put in a plug for volunteers.
  • Many nursing homes hold exit interviews when employees leave. If they left on good terms, invite them to return as a volunteer. (That’s what I did!)
  • Check with mom groups, especially if you offer opportunities for them to bring their kids along when volunteering.
  • Encourage employees to invite their teenagers to come in and volunteer. Suggest that they bring their friends, too.
  • When a resident leaves after a short-term rehab stay, encourage them to consider returning as a volunteer in the future.
  • Place an ad in your local newspaper thanking your current volunteers.
  • Invite a potential volunteer to spend a day as a “buddy” with a current volunteer to see what it’s like.
  • Be sure to have an application and interview process. This lets people know that being a volunteer is something special; you don’t take just anyone.
  • Interview current volunteers. What ideas do they have for recruiting new volunteers?
  • Send a note and brochure to family members of past residents inviting them to return as volunteers.
  • Set up booths at community events during National Nursing Home Week in May.
  • Host a “Get to Know Us” event. Show passion for your mission and share opportunities available for volunteers. (It always helps to serve food, too!)
  • Invite community groups to help with a specific event. If people enjoy the experience, they’ll probably want to learn more about long-term volunteer opportunities.
  • Take good care of your current volunteers. As a result, word will get out that this is an exceptional place to volunteer.
  • Check with local high schools and colleges. See if they have a program where students can get credit for volunteering at your nursing home.

“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – Marjorie Moore

Volunteering helps us age better. Those who regularly volunteer report lower rates of mortality and depression and enjoy increased happiness and self-esteem. Studies show that the older a person is, the greater the potential benefits of volunteering, making the simple act of giving back an essential part of staying healthy in our golden years. 1

Beyond good feelings and a sense of purpose, seniors who volunteer can make friends, learn new skills, and keep their minds sharper. Unlike a traditional job, volunteering offers the flexibility to fit into your schedule and the freedom to explore different opportunities to find the right fit.

The benefits of volunteering are no secret with nearly one-in-four seniors volunteering their time. 2 In the time of COVID-19, however, getting involved with charities and nonprofits looks a little different. You can no longer sign up for a weekly shift at the local food bank or help out at a bake sale in most cities. With social distancing measures in place and safety protocols especially strict for seniors, you may wonder how you can safely give back. The need for volunteers has not gone away, and there are many ways to get involved and even make social connections while you do.

Let’s take a look at ways you can get involved in your local community, even if it’s from home!

Some Ways to Give Back Virtually

Mentor Young People

Many organizations work with youth who need a mentor or a little extra help with school work. Through video calls, volunteers can still build relationships and make a big difference in students’ lives, even when they can’t meet face to face. You can reach out to your local youth centers to see how they are adapting their mentoring programs, or check out these opportunities:

  • Foster Grandparents through Senior Corps: Older adults 55+ can sign up to be role models and mentors to a child with “exceptional needs” through Senior Corps. 3 Volunteers are matched with local organizations to work with children, teens, and young mothers.
  • AARP Experience Corps: Part of the AARP Foundation, Experience Corps 4 matches people 50 years and older with children who are not yet reading at their grade level.
  • iCouldBe: iCouldBe 5 is an organization that partners mentors with high school students and aims to help them stay in school and prepare for their future careers.

Lead Support Groups

Support groups help those facing specific challenges and can be even more important in these times of social distancing. Especially if you have experience in a particular topic, leading a support group can be a rewarding way to help others cope and thrive. Plus, it’s a volunteer opportunity that seniors can easily do virtually. Reach out to your local healthcare centers to see what support groups they run, or consider volunteering with a national organization like the Alzheimer’s Association. 6

Help Raise Money

Charities always need help with fundraising and getting the word out about their work so they can do more of it. If there is an organization or cause near and dear to you, reach out to them and see how you can help. Organizations might ask for help with:

  • Grant writing
  • Organizing fundraising events
  • Marketing or event promotion
  • Online fundraising campaigns

Donate Your Time and Talents

Charitable organizations need volunteers with particular skill sets to raise money or run programs. Some opportunities come with training so you can help others while also learning something new. A few examples include:

  • The IRS 7 utilizes volunteers to prepare taxes for free for low-income families.
  • The Red Cross 8 will train volunteers to virtually help families affected by natural disasters.
  • Meals on Wheels 9 needs people to call participants for their meal orders.
  • SCORE 10 helps small businesses by having subject matter experts provide business advice.
  • Many seniors are sewing and donating masks to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

Not Sure Where to Start?

The organizations below focus on matching volunteers with opportunities.

The AARP 11 has tons of volunteer opportunities, and they are focused on getting seniors involved. The Volunteer Opportunity Board lets you search based on interests and location. The Volunteer Wizard walks you through a series of questions about topics like your special skills and availability, and you can even specify that you want to volunteer from home.

Seventeen percent of seniors are isolated, and one-in-seven live in poverty. 12 AARP volunteers talk to seniors over the phone and provide food assistance, among other services. AARP President Lisa Marsh Ryerson says, “several of our workforce programs have introduced or expanded virtual workshops and other resources, and our Connect2Affect platform is providing more tools and online support to help socially isolated older adults stay connected.”

Senior Corps

Part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, Senior Corps aims to get seniors 55+ involved in their communities through committed volunteerism. They have over 2,000 partner organizations, so you can easily find the right fit for your availability and interests. Since programs have adapted for COVID-19, and Senior Corps says volunteers are needed now more than ever, there are many opportunities for teleservice. Senior Corps members join groups like the Red Cross to help specifically with COVID-19 response efforts 13 from contact tracing to wellness checks.

Millions of people are struggling during this pandemic and need help in a variety of ways. For older adults looking to get involved and give back, there are plenty of ways to do this from the safety of your home.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

As a student nurse, gaining relevant experience is important. This will help you be more familiar with your future work as a registered nurse.

But how can you gain relevant experience?

There are actually a couple of ways. You can study hard and get good grades. You can take on a nursing internship and be more involved in your school’s nursing program.

Or you can volunteer!

The Benefits of Volunteering

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Volunteering means you won’t get paid for your effort and services. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t get anything from it.

Here’s a quick list of benefits you can get from being a volunteer:

Helps you gain hands-on experience

Even though you aren’t a licensed nurse yet, you can still share your talents. There are institutions that ask help from volunteers, like those that respond to disasters.

Take note that you’re likely to be under the supervision of a registered nurse.

Improves mood

When you volunteer, you feel good. The richer your experience, the more satisfied you feel about giving your time and skills. As a result, you experience less stress and better mood.

Reduces feelings of isolation

When you volunteer, you’re able to meet new people and make new friends. Your social network grows, allowing you to meet people who share your values and interests.

Improves confidence

Volunteering allows you to witness and experience what it’s like to work as a nurse. This improves your confidence in your ability to work as one in the future.

Things to Consider Before Volunteering

Volunteering can be a fulfilling experience. However, before you actually commit, you have to assess yourself and your ability to meet the responsibilities that come with it.


As a student, you’re probably dealing with a lot of things at school. With that, it’s important that you assess your current situation.

Taking more responsibilities when your plate is already full can lead to more problems. You might even end up sacrificing your grades.

Try to be honest about how much time you can actually commit. Remember, when you sign up for something, people will expect you to show up and do your part.

Reason for volunteering

There’s no right or wrong reason for volunteering. However, if you really want to narrow down the opportunities, you have to identify why you want to volunteer.

Once you have your reasons, you’ll be able to narrow down the opportunities you want to pursue.


Not all volunteer opportunities are the same. Some have more strict requirements than others. There are also volunteering opportunities that require volunteers to undergo training first.

Volunteering Opportunities for Student Nurses

The American Red Cross

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

The American Red Cross relies on thousands of nurses and health professionals to deliver care and provide relief to people affected by disasters and calamities. They also look for volunteers who can help them in their projects, such as blood donations.

To know more about the opportunities they offer to volunteers, visit this link.

International Medical Relief

IMR provides free care and health education in areas where they are hard to obtain. By joining their cause, you’ll be able to gain insight regarding the demands and rewards of working in the medical field.

You will have the opportunity to care for patients while being supervised directly by licensed medical professionals. Additionally, you will also get the chance to earn about 80 to 110 clinical hours of experience. Find out more information here.

Project HOPE

Project HOPE has volunteers all around the world. They work hard to provide care in times of health crises and emergencies. They also contribute to improving the quality of global health programs.

To volunteer and join their cause, you can apply by using this link.

Action for Healthy Kids

This organization is committed to improving the school environments of children and make them healthy. They do fundraisers and take donations. They also conduct training and webinars.

If you want to know more about Action of Healthy Kids, click here.

Nursing homes

There are senior care facilities that need help when it comes to providing care to their residents. However, since you’re still a nursing student, your tasks will be limited to assisting with events or doing one-on-one visits.

Community health events

You can reach out to your local government and ask if they are planning on doing health fairs that provide services such as health screenings. Volunteering for those events can help you brush up your practical nursing skills.

Local hospital

If you want to get a feel of what it’s like to work in a hospital, then look for volunteer opportunities at your local hospital.

Although you won’t be taking vital signs or giving patients their medications, the experience you’ll get from working as a volunteer student nurse can help you gain insight into what it’s like to work in a certain nursing specialty.

For example, if you are thinking of becoming a pediatric nurse, you can volunteer to work in the pediatric ward. If you are planning on being an anesthesiology nurse one day, look for volunteer opportunities in the surgery department or recovery ward.

Animal shelters

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Humans aren’t the only ones who need care. Animals in shelters can also benefit from volunteers.

There are organizations such as World Vets that aim to provide medical aid to animals around the world. There, you can volunteer to help sterilize medical equipment or perform certain tasks in the post-op recovery area.

In Conclusion

Volunteering is a win-win situation for most nursing students. Apart from being able to help and share your skills and talent, you can also gain hands-on experiences that can help you become a better nurse in the future. It can also help you get a better understanding of what it’s like to work as a nurse and care for other people.

If you plan to volunteer, just make sure that you’ve carefully assessed not just the opportunities but yourself as well. Make sure that you are willing to commit your time and that you are volunteering for something that you are truly passionate about.

23 January, 2017 By NT Contributor

Research in care homes found that where properly supported, volunteers can improve the wellbeing of residents, relatives and even staff

Around 3 million volunteers are involved in the UK’s health and social care services yet despite some excellent examples, volunteering is generally underdeveloped in care home. As John Kennedy’s recent review for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation questioned: “a flourishing volunteering movement supporting care homes would be great. It exists in hospices, why not care homes? What is it that makes care homes so off limits?”.

In this context, NCVO’s Volunteering in Care Homes Project worked with local care homes and Volunteer Centres to recruit volunteers to undertake befriending and activity-based roles in both residential and nursing homes.

The evaluation found that 89% of staff thought volunteers had contributed major or moderate positive impacts in their care home overall. Through in-depth interviews with residents it was clear that the biggest benefit was on their social and emotional wellbeing. Involving volunteers delivered fundamental socialisation, company and ‘someone to talk to’. This included providing long term one-to-one befriending, helping them to settle in the home, support in overcoming bereavement and reducing distress and anxiety.

‘They have sort of become part of the home. It is just the most brilliant thing’ – Activities coordinator

The involvement of volunteers was also perceived to have boosted mental and physical wellbeing both by directly providing mental and physical stimulation (through such activities as reminiscence, walking, reading the newspaper) and through the indirect link between improved wellbeing and improved physical health. This backs up emergent evidence showing loneliness and lack of social interaction is detrimental to health.

‘If you get the social right, the physical and the mental wellbeing come after it’ – Care home manager

‘Instead of sitting in their rooms… keep people thinking the whole time and keep the brain alert instead of being a dodo.’ – Resident

One of the most surprising elements of the evaluation was strong perceived benefits for staff themselves. The overwhelming majority felt that the project had a positive impact on their satisfaction with their job (68%), retention (61%), stress levels (71%) and feelings of job security (54%). There was little evidence of staff fearing volunteers will substitute for paid roles partly because these fears were well managed by managers and partly because, unlike some other settings, the roles of volunteers were clearly distinct from paid staff roles.

Involving volunteers was frequently described as a win-win but it was not without costs and volunteers tended to have a much better experience and, therefore, contributed a greater impact in those homes that invested sufficient staff time, energy and thinking. In homes where there was little management commitment to the project, where volunteers didn’t have a clear role and where staff had little time for (or training in) volunteer management, the involvement of volunteers struggled to get off the ground.

‘I think there is a lot of potential for it and we are only scratching the surface at the moment’ – Home manager

The Volunteering in Care Homes Toolkit brings together the practical learning from the project and contains guidance, references to other helpful resources and organisations, and templates on how to set up a volunteering programme in a care home. The research also highlights the need for funders and regulators to recognise the value of volunteers and take their involvement seriously in their decisions and ratings. It is only through these structural drivers that the huge potential of volunteer involvement and their contribution to resident wellbeing will be realised in care homes across the country.

See all of the project resources on the NCVO website.

Matthew Hill is Senior Research Officer at the Institute for Volunteering Research. He has carried out research into the role of volunteers across Health and Social Care including in care homes, hospices and dementia services.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Katharine Mound

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

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When someone encourages you to start volunteering, what places pop into your mind? Serving food to at your local homeless shelters? Comforting animals in kennels and helping them get adopted? If helping out others’ grandmas and grandpas isn’t on your list, you need to change your thinking ASAP! Although nursing homes are intended to give older individuals all the care they need, they often fall short on regular social interaction. After all, while employees can care for and talk to the elderly residents, the imbalanced ratio of employees to residents limits the time nurses have to just chat.

Not sure what volunteering at a nursing home would involve? It’s actually quite simple: sitting down and talking with an older person, listening to their life stories and just being some kind and thoughtful company. Some seniors in these homes rarely receive visits from family and friends, and others don’t receive any visits at all. The fact is that the couple of hours you take out of each week to visit the nursing home could be the hours these people look forward to most.

Attending to the social needs of seniors can involve almost limitless activities from going for a stroll to painting someone’s nails. Just think of it like a date with your best friend – only she or he happens to be a few decades older than you! As long as you’re making the residents feel loved and heard, you’re performing an invaluable service to a group of individuals who aren’t often categorized as “people in need.”

How much of a difference can your few volunteer hours make? Not only do you keep nursing home residents from feeling lonely, but you also act as a brain trainer. Older brains need stimulation just as much as younger brains, and these conversations and time spent with seniors can help keep elderly individuals sharp and happy. However, volunteering at nursing homes isn’t a totally selfless act worthy of Mother Teresa. The companionship you provide can also benefit you as you learn from their life experiences and hone your own social skills. Ready to jump into action (or at least jump in your car to drive to the nursing home)? Visit the Hospice Foundation of America to find a nursing home near you.

We are delighted that you want to learn more about the many opportunities available to make a difference in the lives of our state’s nursing facility residents! Volunteering can be one of the most rewarding activities of your life, and the positive change you can make to someone who lives in a nursing facility is immeasurable.

Residents are provided a full day of activities and rehabilitation in nursing facilities, but they truly thrive from interaction with visitors. Individuals who don’t receive family visitors and room-bound residents that have no outside contact especially benefit from the time spent visiting with a volunteer. Even those residents who appear angry, detached, confused or are suffering from such illnesses as dementia will react to the stimulation of another person.

Our residents are most deserving of this gift from you, but the return on your effort is also great. Among the many benefits of volunteering in a nursing facility are: building new friendships (with residents and staff, alike); making a difference in a person’s life; trying something new; creating job experience; and providing a service to your community.

Who Can Volunteer in a Nursing Facility?

You can! Our volunteers are young and old and from all walks of life. Whether you are a high school student or sorority or fraternity member needing to fulfill service hours or you are retired, a homemaker or a full-time professional just wanting to experience the joy of volunteering, we welcome you. Requirements for volunteers vary in each nursing facility, and each facility has its own activities program and its own set of rules. In general, you must love to be around older, frail people and you must be willing to take some direction from the staff members who know best how you can help.

What Types of Things Can Volunteers Do with Residents?

The possibilities are practically endless! From one-on-one visits to entertaining the entire facility, volunteerism can take a variety of forms. Below are just a few of the many possibilities:

  • Play cards or a board game
  • Read aloud to an individual or group
  • Visit (or just listen)
  • Teach a skill or talent (scrapbooking, weaving, painting, computer skills)
  • Offer a free service (ministry, hair styling, manicures, dancing)/li>
  • Play a game of Wii (some nursing facilities have Wii systems or bring your own)
  • Serve coffee in the mornings
  • Donate books, magazines, DVDs or other items
  • Bring your pet for a visit
  • Help a resident type his or her memoirs
  • Play the piano or other musical instrument or sing for the entire facility
  • Remember birthdays and help other residents make birthday cards
  • Become a pen pal
  • Be a behind-the-scenes volunteer, helping staff members

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

There are so many volunteer opportunities out there for teens today. Mike has shared about his experience with Foster Closet and my best friend Abbi has shared about volunteering at Freedom Ride. Both of those organizations sound incredible! For over ten years now my family has volunteered once a month at a local nursing home.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

I think I’m about ten years old in this picture…

I hardly remember a time when we didn’t go to the nursing home. I was around 7 years old when we started. Mom took my brother and I on the first Monday of every month. We would serve ice cream (or pizza occasionally) to the residents, sit and visit with them for a while, and then clean everything up.

Mom says that she chose a nursing home so that we could learn early on to do things for people who could not do anything in return for us. Since both of us were so young we always took things along with us so we would have something to talk about with the residents. Kinda like show and tell.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

We serve the residents in the dining room.

I remember taking pictures of my new kitten, bringing along my build-a-bear so the ladies could help me change his outfit, and even bringing in a tiny puppy once so the residents could enjoy being around a pet for a little while. My brother would play piano and we would even sing hymns sometimes.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

I really enjoy talking to Mr. Carl about sports – he’s a sports fanatic!

Over the years I have learned so much visiting with the elderly in a nursing home:

1 – It’s important to treat everyone with kindness and respect, particularly the elderly.

2 – Working in a nursing home is a tough but rewarding job.

3 – The only way to get over the awkwardness of talking to someone you don’t know is to sit down and start talking.

4 – Being patient with someone is a choice.

5 – It’s an enormous loss to no longer be able to live in your home. Very hard.

6 – You can be cheerful and have a joyful life even in a nursing home. Or not…

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

A few people stand out to me from over the years. There was one lady who was so cheerful and energetic. She was so excited to see us every month. When we would sit down with us she would tell the same story over and over. She had five children and one of her sons had attended Harvard. She was so proud of all her kids. After a few moments of silence, she would introduce herself to us again and start telling us the story about her children again. We heard this story multiple times every single month. As a little girl I would just giggle to myself but as I got older I started to look forward to seeing her and letting her tell me the story. It made her so happy to tell that story and it made me happy to hear it. One month we got there and she had passed away. I still miss hearing it to this day.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

Look forward to seeing Mr. Carl every month!

Mr. Carl is an avid sports fan and we usually talk about sports or the latest stories on the news. He is a so much fun and I really enjoy visiting with him and the other residents that come for ice cream.

A few years ago we had to put my great grandmother into the home. It was at this time that I met Ms. Harriet. She was always so friendly and sweet and I already knew her a little bit from serving ice cream every month. She was such a blessing to our family. She reached out to my great-grandmother and would always tell us how she was doing. Ms. Harriet was always smiling and would give us a big hug when we came in. A year ago she got sick and passed away. I still miss seeing her every month.

How to volunteer at the local nursing home

My great-grandmother used to come with us and help serve the ice cream. Now she is a resident. Here she is with my Mimi…

It is sad as the friends you make pass away but it is so worth it. There are many people in the nursing home we visit who don’t have any friends or family come and visit them. I have had fascinating conversations with people who have had the most amazing lives and I am the better for it. It is also a meaningful way to gain the volunteer hours needed to apply for many college scholarships.

If you are looking for a place to volunteer I highly recommend checking with nursing homes in your area. It’s a fun way to make a difference in someone’s life. You may find that it makes a big difference for you at the same time.

Check out more like this!