How To Volunteer At A Nursing Home: A Helpful Guide

Volunteering at a nursing home can be rewarding - and tiring - work. Learn whether or not it's right for you and how to become a nursing home volunteer if you are ready to get started!

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Share Post: | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn | Email
Product recommendations are based on my personal experience working with seniors. I may earn a commission on items purchased from affiliate links in this guide. 

It helps to stay busy. Especially for older adults who want to maintain their health as they age. Doing things help to stay sharp, physically and mentally. But what if you want your time to benefit others as well? And what if you prefer to be useful in your community? Then you might be interested in volunteering at a nursing home.

Let’s be honest. There can never be enough help or support at nursing homes. And if you consider yourself the type of person that wants to make the world a more comforting place, a nursing home could be the perfect place to help out.

Are you a social butterfly? Or maybe you are handy? What about cooking? There are so many ways you can contribute while making sure you get the most out of life.

In this post, I am going to cover many questions on how to volunteer at a nursing home. We look at the benefits, challenges, and even some methods on how to get started. So, if your passion is to help others, keep reading for another couple of minutes.

Should You Become a Volunteer in General?

Here are some questions and considerations to keep in mind before becoming a volunteer:

  • Am I emotionally and physically stable enough to give support to others?
  • Am I willing to share my time without financial compensation?
  • Do I have the patience to work with senior citizens that face several difficulties?
  • Is volunteering something I really want to do?
  • Do I have a natural passion to help others?

Just because you are not getting paid does not mean you will not have a great responsibility. And you have to take this responsibility seriously. People are going to start depending on you, which is not something you take likely or shrug off easily.

Volunteering offers some extremely rewarding benefits to the volunteer but it isn’t for everyone.

The Benefits Of Volunteering

There are lots of physical and mental benefits when volunteering at a nursing home. Here are some of the most common:

A Very Rewarding Feeling

Not everybody gets it. But the gratification that comes with helping others can be one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. You are out there, making a difference. And all it takes is one person to inspire millions of others. Thus, without question, you are bound to feel great about yourself, and the world around you. Volunteering acts as a natural high and boosts your mood, as well as your outlook on life.

You Get Out Of The House

If you want to be – and stay – happy emotionally, do not be afraid to interact with the world. Just spending time with other people outside your comfort zone can do wonders for your overall health.

More importantly, volunteering at a nursing home can get you excited about life in general. Then you will want to leave the house more and experience new situations. Because nothing keeps you young like challenging yourself every now and again.

It Is Good For Your Health

Given all the things you can help senior citizens with, it is only natural that you benefit as well. For example, when you read to them or play an instrument, you keep practicing vital senses skills.

When you help them stay mobile or exercise, you add to your own physical health. You even stand the chance of developing new skills if you like taking on new challenges. Basically, it is a win-win situation for you and the seniors you will be helping.

RELATED: How to Decorate a Nursing Home Room

The Potential Drawbacks Of Volunteering

Even though volunteering is a very rewarding experience, you have to be realistic as well. In other words, it will not always be easy or even joyful.

No Paycheck for your Labor

A good example of a potential drawback can be the lack of financial help. Seeing as you are not getting paid to volunteer, it could put some financial strain on your situation.

Dealing With Death

Then there is the matter of befriending individuals and having to let go not long after. You are going to build emotional bonds, and you are going to feel sad when these friendships come to a natural end. Are you ready to face the emotional challenges tied to volunteering at a nursing home?

Emotional Ups and Downs

Finally, nobody can stay positive all the time. And your ability to stay positive might be tested as you volunteer at a nursing home. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you have to be prepared for some sadness along the way.

best way to label clothes for nursing home
A common volunteer duty at nursing homes is helping put away laundry and clothing after cleaning.

What Are The Typical Duties Of A Nursing Home Volunteer?

There is no straight answer to this question. Everything depends on which nursing home you volunteer at, the skills you have to share, and how much time you can put in. And if you thought volunteer work at nursing homes is limited, think again. To give you some idea of how you can help, here are some of the basic tasks performed by volunteers.

  • Host special events like Bingo or card games
  • Aid senior citizens with daily activities, such as eating and getting around
  • Retrieving blankets for cold nursing home residents
  • Help in the kitchen
  • Putting away laundry
  • Reading
  • Dancing lessons
  • Art classes

If you have a special skill, there is a good chance you can make use of it at a nursing home. And even if you don’t have a special skill, basic assistance and conversation can go a long way.

RELATED: Labeling Clothing in Nursing Homes

What Are The Requirements To Become A Volunteer At A Nursing Home?

For the most part, there are no special requirements necessary if you want to volunteer. You just have to be able and willing to fulfill a helpful role. Although, it is recommended that you create a “volunteer resume”. Much like a typical resume, you note the skills you have and the time you are able to spend as a volunteer. More info about starting as a volunteer is provided later.

As for right now, you do not really have to worry about any specific requirements. Of course, this can also depend on the nursing home where you want to volunteer. It will be a rare occurrence, but the nursing home may have some rules in place when accepting volunteers. You’ll likely have to have a background check. And this is most likely based on keeping their residents safe.

Do I Need Special Training To Volunteer?

In general, no. Unless you are volunteering to reconstruct the nursing home altogether, of course. Then you will obviously need special credentials and experience. But if all you want to do is make the lives of seniors more comfortable, there is no need for any special training.

This could change if you decide to move to bigger responsibilities. And if this requires special training, it will usually be provided by the nursing home. At the end of the day, it only takes a positive attitude and compassion to be one of the best volunteers in any nursing home.

How Old Do You Have To Be? How Old Is Too Old?

Strictly speaking, there is only a minimum age requirement if you want to volunteer. For obvious reasons, children can only volunteer if they are accompanied by adults. But it rarely happens that a volunteer is sent away because they are too old. If you are physically able and willing to help others, there is a very good chance you can be a volunteer.

So, to answer the question, there is no specific age range to be a volunteer. Even kids can do it if they have a guardian with them. But the best way to get clarity is to contact the nursing homes in your area. Inquire if they have any limitations in terms of age and if they have any other requirements.

Most nursing home residents are just looking for someone who will spend a little time with them.

How To Become A Volunteer At A Nursing Home

Now for the part that you have been waiting for – becoming a volunteer. We are about to go over some steps to help you start your nursing home volunteer career. And yes, it is much simpler than you anticipate.

1. Think About What You Have To Offer

First, start by listing your skills. Are you a great communicator? Do you have a natural talent to get people talking? And what about physical strength? Can you help other seniors move from the bed to the chair? While listing your skills does not necessarily mean you’ll be using them, it helps the nursing home to find the best spot for you.

2. Get A Resume Ready

Volunteers usually become part of the big family, especially when they come around often. Having a resume ready will not just make it easier for the admin at the nursing home to place you as a volunteer, but they can easily contact you if necessary. Remember, this is not a job interview. There is no need to be nervous or tense. In fact, you should feel very relaxed about the situation.

3. List Nursing Homes In Your Vicinity

Now that you know exactly how you can volunteer, it is time to find the nursing homes in your area. It is recommended to stick with nursing homes closer to home, mainly because traveling can get expensive and tiring. The last thing you want is to get frustrated by the commute. And if you can volunteer at a nursing home within walking distance, even better.

4. Make Some Calls

It is your choice whether to call the nursing home or to show up for face-to-face interaction. The latter makes a stronger impact, and it definitely shows you are serious about being a volunteer. But nobody is going to think less of you if you prefer to call the nursing home instead. This is especially true if there are several options.

RELATED: Gifts for Nursing Home Residents

Summary And Final Recommendations

Is it just a coincidence that people who stay busy usually appear happy and healthy? Or is there something more to it? From a medical point of view, it is good to stay active regardless of your age. This is why volunteering at a nursing home can be such a great choice to keep busy. You are not putting yourself in any type of danger, nor do you face life-threatening risks. At the same time, you are improving your mood, keeping your mind sharp, and your body healthy.

Remember that volunteering will have certain challenges. And these can range from emotional to financial depending on your situation. So be prepared to hit a few bumps along the way. Luckily, the reward of making a difference in somebody else’s life usually makes the effort worth it.

You do not need any special skills, training, or special connections. All you need is an able body, mind, and the desire to help those around you. If you can relate to the latter, any nursing home will be lucky to have you as a volunteer.

Keep Reading About Long Term Care & Nursing Homes

Great Gifts For People in Nursing Homes
60+ Great Gifts For People in Nursing Homes
Having an Elderly Parent Move In With You: The Ultimate Guide
decorate nursing home room
A Detailed Guide On How To Best Decorate A Nursing Home Room
blankets for nursing homes
6 Blankets for Nursing Homes That are the Right Size and Easy to Care For
falling out of bed in a nursing home
Loved One Falling Out Of Bed In A Nursing Home? Here’s What To Do
senior sitting at bedside with spouse with dementia
Do Bed Alarms Prevent Falls? The Pros and Cons
Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

Join Our Crew!

Enter your email address to subscribe to our weekly email newsletter to get updates on new guides for seniors and the elderly and savings on senior-friendly products. And, of course, we will never sell or share your email address!

Leave a Comment