My name is Jill I started volunteering when I was 43, in October 15 (I’m 44 now), and both live and volunteer in my hometown of Edinburgh. When I discovered that I had some time to give it was an easy decision to make to volunteer with Alzheimer Scotland. So many of my friends have parents with dementia and I heard how it was taking its toll on all the family. I looked into what opportunities where available and contacted the Alzheimer Scotland Connect 2 project and became a befriender.
I have been perfectly matched to an older lady called Elsie who enjoys lots of things that I do so it’s almost like spending time with a grandparent. We do lots of different things. On rainy days it’s usually coffee and cake at Pentland Plants (the cakes and scones are divine!). If we are staying at home, we play cards, dominos or even bake. We have been to feed the ducks at the local pond (Elsie used to ice skate on this pond as a child), been for a walk along the prom, visited the SSPCA homing centre to see Shetland ponies (Elsie used to ride ponies on her childhood holidays) and even been to the cinema. With lots more plan as the weather gets better.
Since becoming a volunteer I have been on a couple of training events (moving and handling and reminiscence) which are great as you get to meet up with other befrienders, and find out how they do things. Everyone is always very welcoming. There was one particular girl I really got on with when we went for our initial chat with Iza, the volunteer co-ordinator, so it’s always great to catch up with her.
One of my favourite times since becoming involved with Elsie was when we were at the garden centre for our cake and coffee. It was close to Christmas so they had donkeys and a small brass band. Elsie’s face lit up and she started singing along to We Wish You A Merry Christmas. Then and there was reason enough to be doing this. Had I not been able to take her out that day she would have missed out on what for her was a particularly happy moment. To people thinking about volunteering, I would say come and join Alzheimer Scotland! The rewards are priceless; the smile of recognition, the shared stories, the history lessons, and knowing that whatever time you can give, you really are making a difference to those whose lives are affected by the many forms of dementia.
What makes it special
Speaking about how Jill’s friendship has made a difference to her mum, Elsie’s daughter said: “Jill has made the world of difference to mum's weekly routine. She now has a friend to socialize with rather than someone just being around for the day to day practicalities. Mum and Jill have fun together and there is always a good story after each outing. It's nice to see mum having fun with someone who has given up their free time and takes time to tailor outings to suit mum's interest and capabilities. We can't thank Alzheimer Scotland enough.”