Jane Durston has ‘found her calling’ since she started volunteering on Lister – the dementia care floor at the Royal Star and Garter care home in Surbiton. To mark Volunteers’ Week, Jane explains her initial reservations, what makes Lister so special, and why she wouldn’t change things for the world.
I started volunteering two-and-a-half years ago, when my son, who is serving in the military, signed up as a reservist while at university. Because he was volunteering to serve his country, I thought I would volunteer to help all those people that had done selfless things when they were younger but were now old. In my own head I was balancing the scales.
I came in for a meeting with Raquel (Volunteers Manager) and I was quite certain I didn’t want to work on the dementia floor. I didn’t know enough about dementia, I had never come across it in my personal life. I didn’t know how I was going to deal with someone living with dementia. I didn’t know much about it and I was scared, I didn’t know what to expect. I was worried residents would be angry or sad, and I was worried about getting upset. I was very reluctant to go onto Lister, but Raquel told me I should give it a go and I’ve never looked back.
I just love it up there. The residents on Lister appear to me to be more vulnerable than other residents in Surbiton, and I feel I can offer more because of that. They live in the moment. The moments when they’re unhappy are very brief, but when it happens, you’re there to help them through and then it’s gone. And I’m there with them when they have their happy moments. Whatever state of mind they’re in I will try to be there with them.
I come three days a week and I’m recognised by the residents. They might not know what I do, but they remember my face and ask how I am and how my family is. They remember that we have shared happy times together. I do baking every Thursday, and we sing a lot when we’re baking. Sometimes residents help, sometimes they don’t. We just try to do things that they enjoy. You’re just there in their moment and if you need to distract them you burst into an old song!
I’ve decided this is my calling. I feel I have found my niche in life. I get on very well with residents living with dementia and I get so much satisfaction from it.