HOW TO HELP YOURSELF!
19,000 sign up for our campaign... as major study shows volunteering can ward off dementia
Keeping active in retirement was found to reduce memory problems and boost thinking skills by 6 per cent. VOLUNTEERING for only two hours a week can help to ward off dementia, a major study shows.
Experts say it adds to growing evidence that stimulating activities – such as helping on hospital wards or reading to patients – can contribute to maintaining brainpower into old age.
So far, more than 19,000 people have signed up to the Daily Mail’s campaign to boost volunteer numbers in the NHS.
Scotland’s first female bishop, the Rt Rev Anne Dyer, underwent treatment for cancer and called NHS volunteers modern-day ‘Good Samaritans’.
The Episcopalian Bishop of Aberdeen and Orkney said: ‘Thus far the response from readers has been fantastic, with almost 20,000 people across Britain pledging well over a million hours of their time over the next six months. But, as a churchwoman who has experienced first-hand the generosity of NHS volunteers, it seems to me I should do all I can to keep this tidal wave of kindness growing.’
Referring to the Good Samaritan from the Bible, she added: ‘He took time out from his daily business to offer his compassion.’
Mrs Dyers’s comments echo those of Justin Welby, who today gives his support to the campaign, commending those who have pledged their time and encouraging others to follow suit.
The Archbishop of Canterbury says volunteers are in a privileged position and can give the precious time busy doctors and nurses do not have.
‘By joining the Hospital Helpforce – pledging as little as three hours a week, or one day a month of your time – you could have a profound impact on the lives of patients, whether giving practical help like picking up prescriptions, offering a shoulder to cry on, talking to patients who may be elderly or confused, or staffing helpdesks to make the hospitals as efficient as possible,’ he writes.
The Christmas campaign with the charity Helpforce aims to fill important roles such as providing patients with companionship, delivering prescriptions and even running singing groups.
Last week a major report by respected health think tank The King’s Fund found voluntary help reduces pressures on NHS staff. Research by UK charity the Royal Voluntary Service has also shown the benefits to those on the receiving end.
Now researchers say there is compelling evidence that this can benefit volunteers as well as patients and staff.
The study, published in The Journal of the Economics of Ageing, followed 64,000 adults in the US, who were aged 60 and over, between 1998 and 2010. It found those who completed volunteer work for 100 hours a year – only two hours a week – scored 6 per cent higher in cognitive testing than non-volunteers.
MORE than 19,000 selfless Daily Mail readers have responded to our call for hospital volunteers. Here, three reveal why they want to give up their free time to help:
PARAMEDIC WHO WANTS TO DO MORE
Sophie Piper, 28, a paramedic for West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: ‘I might be a strange candidate to volunteer when I already work long hours for the NHS, but as I work two days and two nights a week I effectively have four days off a week, too, when I could help. My partner told me I might as well do overtime, but I wanted to make a different sort of impact.’
Miss Piper, who lives in Swadlincote, Derbyshire with her fiancé, John, 33, an HGV driver, added: ‘My mother is undergoing chemotherapy for stage-four breast cancer, so I know what an extra pair of hands could achieve. She often has to wait for ages for her drugs. If a volunteer could take pressure off nurses things like that could be done more quickly.
‘As a paramedic, I also see first-hand people’s impression of the service. An elderly woman I attended recently was having a heart attack, yet was adamant she didn’t want to go to hospital because she had had such a bad experience the last time. We managed to persuade her, but it wasn’t easy.
‘On the whole, the NHS is brilliant. Of course it’s overstretched and there’s too much demand on every aspect, but it’s also still free. People often forget that.
‘This is an excellent campaign and a great opportunity for young people to gain experience if they want to go into hospitals or care work. It helps everyone.
‘Hopefully I’ll be good at speaking to the elderly or cheering up children after their parents have gone home – anything to give people a break.’
THE HEART PATIENT KEEN TO GIVE SOMETHING BACK
Howard Davies, 75, a locksmith who lives in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, said: ‘Three months ago I suffered a heart attack and the NHS were fantastic.
‘I was at home on my own at the time. It felt like somebody was pushing the centre of my chest and I suddenly felt quite cold. I recognised the symptoms and dialled 999 and the ambulance came quickly and I was taken to Wexham Park Hospital where four stents were inserted into my heart whilst I was awake.
‘Half the arteries in my heart were blocked. I was very lucky.’
The father of two, who has one grandchild and one great-grandchild, added: ‘I’m still having treatment – cardiac rehab to try to make me a bit fitter than I was before – but I felt perfectly fit and healthy both before and after and it remains the only time I have ever really had to use the NHS for something serious.
‘It made me think that at my time of life, I work but am self-employed, I can afford to offer some of my time, to give something back.
‘The NHS is a wonderful, wonderful institution and I have put my money in all my life.
‘I think it’s a must-keep and there are people around who could give time.
‘My skills are probably peoplefacing, but I’m interesting in helping anyone in any way I can.’
GRAN WORKED WITH THE NHS FOR YEARS
Norma Whiteford, a retired pharmaceutical representative, lives with her husband Jim in Ayr. She has two children and two grandchildren.
She said: ‘I worked in pharmaceutical sales for many years and while I was not employed by the NHS it did bring me into direct contact with them for most of my working life when in hospitals, surgeries and out in the communities with nurses.
‘I have always been struck by the dedication, the hard work and the giving up of time and I felt that now I am retired I would like to give something back.
‘My own personal involvement with the NHS has always been very positive and I’d like everyone to experience that.
‘I have witnessed how stretched NHS staff are and I think it has come to a time that we all have to pull together because we are perhaps facing a staffing crisis.
‘I can offer empathy and time and hopefully I’ll be able to help those going through a difficult time or be there for those people that don’t have anyone else. If they do want me to be more proactive I do have my Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry qualification from the career that I’ve had.’
WIDOW REPAYING KINDNESS OF STAFF
Judith Ayres, 75, a retired receptionist of Torquay, Devon, with two daughters and three granddaughters, said: ‘Since my husband John died in February aged 76 I’ve felt very, very lonely. The only way to keep myself going is to stay busy, and volunteering is an excellent way of doing that. I also want to give something back to the NHS.
‘I’ve been trying to cope with John’s death, but it came out of the blue. He wasn’t ill – it was a sudden problem with his heart. I called the paramedics and an ambulance arrived within minutes.
‘They were such lovely people and although they weren’t able to save him they really looked after me. It was their kindness that was most striking. To be able to help them in any capacity would be wonderful and make me feel as though I’m being useful.