Much more than passing time and offering a change of scenery; as well encouraging patients to be active, social and creative, with the combination of colourful, tactile arts and crafts activities and reminiscent conversation, time spent with volunteers can enhance patients' mental wellbeing, self esteem and feelings of self-worth.
Over the past two years, volunteers have embraced their role in working with patients, responded to patients’ preferences and needs and continued to expand their work into a variety of activities to be as person-centred and inclusive as possible.
Volunteers’ development of activities essentially focuses on a ‘can do’ attitude – as well as simply helping to relieve the boredom of a hospital stay, through participation in activities, patients are able to feel a sense of enjoyment and achievement perhaps against a progressive decline in functional ability, perhaps against increasing loneliness, anxiety and/or confusion, perhaps against the low mood that may accompany their diagnosis and/or hospital stay.
Volunteers’ activities provide a positive, accessible and inclusive focus for patients, but, on the most basic level, a person can take great comfort in simply talking and being listened to.
Of several volunteer-led projects, many patients especially connect to the button flowers concept; some have memories of button tins in their families, for some this may tap into fond memories of childhood, maybe using buttons in play or being asked to sort buttons by older relatives, or simply of spending time with mother and/or grandmother. The tins may also prompt conversation of the skills utilised as a housewife, of needlecraft or embroidery as a hobby, perhaps even of employment as a seamstress, tailor, in a clothes shop or even factory line. Regardless of a patient’s conversational ability, there’s something in the tactile focus of the button tins and their contents; to sort through the buttons, matching like styles or colours, or simply in just the feel of the buttons. Alongside conversation, volunteers encouraged patients to select buttons and make flowers that were made into badges sold at the Community Fete thus reiterating the value of this activity.
What on the surface seems a simple craft activity is essentially, through conversation, reinforcing a person’s identity. It is important to reiterate that volunteers’ activity is as responsive as possible; volunteers adapt to that patients needs and respond accordingly, sometimes therefore assisting with functional elements of an activity (cutting and sticking, for example) whilst encouraging the patient to make creative choices based on his or her preferences and to enjoy conversation without fear of failure – allowing that patient to play to their strengths and recognise abilities, thus boosting their self esteem. Regardless of whether symptoms restrict some physical participation in some activities, patients wellbeing may still benefit in multiple other ways; social interaction, reinforcing identity through conversation and preferences, change of scenery.