Acceptability of use of volunteers for fundamental care of older inpatients

Published Date: 1 Jan 2015


Older inpatients often have high fundamental care requirements. The Royal College of Nursing reports that important aspects of care can be compromised due to competing time pressures experienced by ward staff. We explored the views of older people on the involvement of volunteers and family in the delivery of fundamental care in hospital.

Sampling methods

We surveyed the views of 92 older people over a two month period. This convenience sample comprised 32 clients and 10 volunteers at two lunch club meetings, 11 nursing home residents, and 38 in-patients and 1 relative on acute medical wards in a university hospital.


The age of the 92 people surveyed was between 60–99 years. Seventy-four per cent of the respondents were female. Forty-one (45%) of the respondents had experience of hospital volunteers and all spoke highly of their input. Most participants thought volunteers could be trained to help with meals and walking. Other tasks identified for volunteers included: companionship and talking (19 responses), help tidying the bedside (16 responses), and personal care (12 responses) including washing, escorting to the toilet and cutting nails. Concerns related to potential clashes with paid staff and overcrowding of the wards.

Many (56%) respondents would choose to regularly help staff in caring for a hospitalised relative. Similarly, 52% thought a relative would be keen to contribute to their care. Specific aspects of care that could be addressed by a family member included mealtimes (76%), walking assistance (78%) and personal care (67%).


The concept of volunteers and family members contributing to fundamental care in hospital was acceptable to this sample of older people. Their main reservations were appropriate training and interaction with paid staff members. Routine involvement of trained volunteer and family members may enhance the care of older inpatients.

Dr Alicja Baczynska