Survey catching international attention seeking volunteers in Penticton

A seniors survey catching attention worldwide is looking for volunteers in the South Okanagan.

A seniors survey catching attention worldwide is looking for volunteers in the South Okanagan.

The B.C. Seniors Advocate survey is looking to incorporate the opinions of seniors in residential care into their future plans. A survey of this scale has never been done before said Jessica Kleissen, regional engagement lead for the Interior for the Office of the Seniors Advocate’s residential care survey.

“My understanding is that it’s never been done in this way, at this large a scale, with this particular tool in the entire world,” Kleissen said. “I hear from some of my colleagues that this survey is being very carefully watched by other countries and other health authorities throughout Canada.”

The survey being undertaken by the Office of the Seniors Advocate province wide is looking for the thoughts of 27,000 residents in 303 long-term care facilities in B.C. The survey started rolling throughout the province in May 2016 with recruitment of volunteers. Volunteers are tasked with visiting long-term care residents and conducting structured interviews with residents.

“One of our guiding principles is that it’s a meaningful conversation, even though it’s a structured interview, and beyond that the hope is by listening to the residents there can be guidance or a roadmap or framework if you will, for improvements to long-term care in the province,” Kleissen said.

She hopes to see 25 volunteers in the South Okanagan and there are currently four signed up. There is a screening process involved with volunteers having to undergo a criminal record check, a telephone interview and a mandatory, one-day training session. The session in Penticton takes place Nov. 28 for invited volunteers. Volunteers are expected to complete a minimum commitment of 30 hours over six to eight weeks. Kleissen hopes volunteers will show particular interest in listening to seniors, spending time with them and be willing to be a voice for some of the province’s most vulnerable citizens.

“I hope (volunteers) get a sense of helping others. The volunteers I do have all come for such different reasons. I have UBC students needing to fulfil volunteer hours. I have retired nurses who this is like their second nature,” Kleissen said. “We hope that (volunteers) come for their own reasons, but ultimately to help us listen to all of the residents and know what’s working and what’s not in the province.”

The survey and its methodology were designed through a 14-month consultation process involving experts from across Canada.

“By listening to the residents themselves and looking at what’s working and what’s not working in long-term care according to the people who it is for, the people using it and living in the long-term care homes,” Kleissen said.

Those interested in volunteering can apply at www.surveybcseniors.org or email Kleissen at jkleissen@providencehealth.bc.ca.