Background The value of volunteerism among older people continues to be recognised, with benefits extending to both giver and recipient. The purpose of this study was to determine whether conducting an arthritis self-management course as a volunteer lay-leader would lead to improvements in terms of physical and psychological health status.
Methods The study was a pre-test post-test design with data collected at three points in time; before attending training, 6 weeks, and 6 months after training. Data were collected through self-administered postal questionnaires and telephone interviews. The sample comprised 22 older people with arthritis. The majority of participants were women (N = 20), with either osteoarthritis (N = 14) or rheumatoid arthritis (N = 9), a mean age of 57.9 (SD 5.32) and a mean disease duration of 13.36 years (SD 9.25).
Results Six months after training, participants reported small but significant increases in arthritis self-efficacy pain (p = 0.002), cognitive symptom management (p = 0.004) and communication with health practitioners (p = 0.024), and a small but significant decrease in depression (p = 0.04). Qualitative data supported these findings with participants reporting more confidence, happiness and a changed outlook on life in general.
Conclusions Improvements reported by study participants lend support to the value of volunteerism and training to become lay leaders on an arthritis self-management programme. Volunteers noticed positive changes both in themselves and course participants. Many had begun to apply their new found knowledge about self-management to their own situation, reporting less pain and more willingness ‘to get on with life’.
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