Care home residents enjoy a good read thanks to the Home Library Service

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It’s always good to hear about other organisations that are also working in care homes to support to our older residents and Essex Libraries’ Home Library Service is a case in point.

Sue and Bruce Heath, volunteers with Essex County Council’s Home Library Service

Besides visiting people at home when they can no longer get out to their library, the service also links up with the care homes in Essex communities to offer a personalised service to residents so that they can enjoy the books they want to read, not the books they are given.

Like us the Home Library Service is grateful to its volunteers who give their time to help others to continue enjoying life to the full. We were delighted to hear about Sue and Bruce Heath who after early retirement and experiencing a number of different volunteer roles were approached by a member of staff in their local library and asked if they’d like to deliver books to care homes.

Sue told us what happened:

The idea of helping people living in care homes to continue to enjoy a good read appealed to both of us and getting started was easy as we received good support and training.

What’s been so exciting is that we’ve been part of a major shift in how the service is delivered. Originally the role consisted of delivering a set of books to each of eight care homes every two months; we’d take out the previous collection and put the new set of books on the shelf. We didn’t have a lot of contact with the residents and often felt that the books hadn’t been used – not very satisfactory for either party. Now we visit four homes each month and we have specific ‘customers’. We find out what each customer wants, including their preferred authors, book genre and other details, so that they can get the best from the service.

Over the year we have built up relationships with the residents and it is a real pleasure to deliver library books to them. Of course they are not all of the same temperament: it would never do to take Mr X a copy of a book he has already read (getting a ‘telling off at school’ feeling) and woe betide us if Miss Y’s books contain any sexual references (makes us snigger) but the delight on Mrs Z’s face when we managed to find a copy of her favourite book from her childhood is beyond measure and worth every minute.

Sometimes you can make someone’s day with just a picture book that evokes happy memories and if you are an avid reader you will understand how important it is, if you are unable to get to the library yourself, to still be able to use the library.

We’ve made many acquaintances at the homes and in the Home Library Service and we feel that what we’re doing really does make a difference. More volunteers are needed so why not check out this video for more information about volunteering in Essex Libraries. You’ll be helping those who would otherwise not be able to access library resources. It only takes half a day a month to make that important difference by delivering books, DVDs and other resources to residents’ houses or care homes

The My Home Life Essex Community Association also welcomes enquiries about volunteering opportunities in Essex residential care homes. We can tell you about becoming a Community Visitor, a befriender or sharing your knowledge and skills to enable an older person to continue with a hobby or interest, or even try a new one. We’d love to hear from you so do contact Debbie Tanner, Development Officer or call 0845 017 1095 for an informal chat.