At some point, everyone will be faced with the prospect of losing someone they love and we all want to ensure that those we care about are as comfortable and happy as possible.
Palliative care is not something people ever want to consider, but it’s a cornerstone of healthcare and one we may rely on when caring for loved ones.
Based in Eastbourne, St Wilfrid’s Hospice covers an impressive area of around 300 square miles in East Sussex, there for over 235,000 people. Open since 1982, the hospice has been constantly improving and updating its support to offer the best palliative and end of life care possible to its patients, moving into the new purpose-built building in 2013.
St Wilfrid’s is so much more than the building however, with initiatives and projects to try to reach as many people in need of its support as possible.
Closer to You
One such initiative is aptly named Closer to You, where specialist nurses and carers visit patients in their own homes, in local clinics and care homes, offering the support and services required to patients without the need for them to travel to the hospice building.
The initiative came about due to the number of people unable to access hospice care, or not aware of it, and it has some great benefits. Patients can feel as though they have greater independence when still in their own home, and be more relaxed as a result. This can also contribute to a more positive state of mind about their illness, knowing that help is never far away.
Support is also offered to those close to the patient, whether they are direct carers or living further afield.
Closer to You means that St Wilfrid’s Hospice is able to reach out to support more local people living with a terminal illness, especially those living in more rural or remote places within the catchment area who may find it hard to get to the hospice building.
Often older people and those living in more rural areas can find themselves feeling isolated and alone. That’s where St Wilfrid’s Community Support Volunteers (CSV) can make all the difference.
Created four years ago, the CSV programme has been in constant refinement to reach the excellent standard it is today. It matches each volunteer with a patient living at home, providing them with regular visits. The patient has some regular interaction with someone who may share the same likes or interests as them. Not only does the patient enjoy themselves, but the volunteer is enriched from the connection made.
St Wilfrid’s Hospice has been hugely successful with the CSV programme, but more volunteers will mean that more patients can be reached. You might show an interest in volunteering yourself, only to find that it’s a neighbour or someone close by who’s in need of the support. Just a friendly chat from time to time, making a cup of tea and being a friend can be all that’s needed to make their day.
After an induction and bespoke training, volunteers are matched with appropriate patients and begin building a relationship, one which can also involve interacting with family members or close friends, who in turn see what a positive influence volunteers have on their family member.
The future of hospice care
In 2012, Hospice UK published a report looking at the future of hospice care and reported on the ways volunteers work within hospice care, and also the importance of recruiting more of them.
As mentioned, loneliness and isolation are terrible to endure, and if one individual is able to combat that with a little of their time it can make an enormous difference. Simply being a friendly face or ear to listen can go a long way, likewise volunteering alongside the clinical staff frees them up to get on with other work.
However, volunteering for a hospice doesn’t mean working directly with those in need of care; there are far more opportunities than you might think:
- Administration roles
- Working in one of St Wilfrid’s community shops
- Transporting items donated
- Helping to fundraise
- Providing different kinds of support such as beauty therapy and hairdressing.
Whatever form it takes, volunteers are certainly special people – illustrated by a conversation I had when I was a child. I asked my local priest how he felt when visiting people in hospital, having just heard that he is often one of the last to speak with them.
He smiled at me and said that it was an honour, that someone would want him to be there in their final moments. There was no sadness in his words or written upon his face, an image that stuck with me, and I always viewed it differently from then on.
Volunteers make a positive impact in many roles and sectors, but there can be few that make a difference such as that. Be it helping to raise funds, or offering a service to lift their spirits; knowing that you’ve made such an impact makes it more than worth it.
If you feel you can offer your time and energy in helping St Wilfrid’s Hospice, please feel free to browse its volunteering positions and see if something looks suitable.
If you would like to make a donation there are multiple ways to do so, any and all are most welcome for the continued running of the hospice’s services.
Donating items to and visiting and buying from the hospice’s community shops also provides funds for the hospice. A list of their locations can be found here.
If you are someone who is either in need of end of life care, or looking to find appropriate care for a loved one, please feel free to contact the hospice’s 24/7 Nurse Line on 01323 434222.
Their general telephone number is open from 8am until 8pm, on 01323 434200.
For further contact information please see the appropriate webpage.
Written by Neil Sonsthagen