8th October 2014

Community Volunteers lend a hand

Volunteers are a vital part of St Richard’s Hospice’s service and help to support patients and their families in every department of the hospice, but offer particular reassurance when patients are at home.

As part of the hospice’s ethos of holistic care, we recognise that those who have a life-threatening illness, and those that care for them, can become isolated at home and may find it difficult to manage the day to day tasks that still need attention.  St Richard’s Hospice’s community volunteers offer companionship and practical support at home to patients and their families, giving a helping hand with a wide range of everyday tasks.

Volunteers take on a wide range of tasks to help normal life continue as much as possible, such as light housework, shopping, walking the dog or just offering time to chat. This often means that carers can take valuable time out to do personal tasks such as attending their own appointments or taking part in carer support groups, knowing that their loved one is being well cared for.

As the Community Volunteer Co-ordinator, it is my role to match up the right volunteer to the right patient so that everyone gains maximum benefit from the arrangement. For example, a patient who enjoys sport will be supported by a community volunteer who shares these interests and can chat about the latest news and results.

Each patient or family’s needs are different, and for our volunteers, each day offers the opportunity to make a real difference to someone’s life. Many volunteers befriend a patient and visit regularly to offer companionship and help with day to day tasks. Not all patients need regular support though; some people ask us for help with specific one-off tasks.
For example, one gentleman who lives alone likes to relax overlooking his front garden, which is set on a corner plot. However, he found that litter was accumulating in his garden, spoiling his enjoyment, and he asked St Richard’s Hospice for help. Four community volunteers offered to spend a couple of hours clearing the litter from the garden and completed a bit of light gardening so that he could again appreciate the view from his armchair.

Iris, a long standing member of the Community Volunteer team, likes to help patients and their families to complete jobs that will make a real difference to their everyday lives. One patient was worried about leaving her huge collection of books for her family to sort out after her death, but didn’t feel able to tackle the challenge herself. Iris helped her to sort the books into different piles – to give to family members or friends, or to take to the charity shop.

Iris explained what Community Volunteering means to her; “I am extending my horizons by meeting new people, clients, other St Richard’s volunteers and staff. It means having the opportunity to use skills I developed in my working life and being able to learn new skills. It means hoping to make a difference, for the better, in the community where I live.”

Shirley has been supporting a St Richard’s patient with shopping and light housework tasks. Each week, she visits for a chat and a cup of tea before completing any practical jobs that need attention such as changing bedding, ironing or shopping. While the main purpose of the visit is to help with practical tasks, her visit and conversation offer companionship and ease the anxiety that can result from feeling isolated.

Shirley said; “Over the last year, I have been visiting on a weekly basis, doing a little light housework or shopping. The last half hour is usually spent having a cup of coffee and a ‘natter’. She is a very independent lady and used to find it hard to have to ask me to do things for her. When I see her by the window looking out for me or waving me off when I leave, I feel that maybe I am making a little difference to her life and I find that very rewarding.”

Our patients and their families really appreciate the support they receive from our community volunteers, who donate their time freely. St Richard’s Hospice is grateful for the compassion and dedication of these volunteers and is always keen to hear from people who may be interested in helping out themselves.

Tracey Grint

Community Volunteer Co-ordinator

October 2014