Possibilities: The return of Volunteers at Melbourne City Mission Palliative Care (MCMPC)

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, Featured, and People & Places.

“I feel euphoric” were the words of MCMPC client Sally, following volunteer Anna’s first visit in February. While not every client connection creates the same level of excitement, this is one example of the emotional impact that would have been lost had the visit not been possible.

MCMPC is one of Australia’s oldest home-based palliative care services and has long-seen the complementary value of volunteers on the multi-disciplinary team, when supporting people in their own environment.

Australian and local government COVID restrictions for home visits are long gone, but as a high-risk setting, MCMPC staff remain appropriately cautious about non-essential home visits. With client needs increasing, a team of volunteers at the ready, and the benefit of two years of learnings about COVID safety, MCMPC implemented a “traffic light” system for approval of volunteer visits.

Companionship visits by a member from the volunteer team, that can comfortably take place outdoors, are ‘green’ for go. Sitting on a veranda, walking around the block, strolling in a park, or pottering in a garden, are activities possible for many clients in the stable phase.

Client and carer support visits that can only be helpful if indoors are labelled ‘amber’ and require management approval based on individual need and the potential impact of the volunteer contact. Volunteers are required to wear an N95 mask and show a clear Rapid Antigen Test on the morning of the visit.

Gentle hand/foot massage referrals were initially categorised as ‘red’ (not approved under any circumstances), however these referrals are now considered on a case-by-case basis and require the volunteer to wear full PPE.

The euphoria felt by Sally was the result of an hour sitting and chatting on the back porch, while Anna potted up her favourite small plants. Sally’s sense of self, and joy for life were restored through the simple act of being heard, and seeing her favourite plants cared for. Sally took these same plants when admitted for end-of-life care – a lasting impact made possible by Anna and the volunteer program.

We continue to work closely with volunteers and MCM COVID-19 Response Team to reinstate the program, whilst ensuring the health and safety of all involved.  Volunteers have expressed joy and energy at returning to work and providing a vital human connection with clients and carers at a most vulnerable time in their lives.

Written by Jane Ainsworth, Coordinator of Volunteers
Melbourne City Mission Palliative Care

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