Big hearted volunteers at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Gloucestershire have found some novel ways to overcome the challenges created by the Coronavirus pandemic and continue providing friendship and support to patients.
The hospice runs a popular befriending scheme which connects people living with life-limiting conditions with a local volunteer for companionship and support.
At the start of the pandemic the hospice befrienders switched from home visits to telephone and video support. Over the past few months countless telephone and video conversations have taken place, covering topics from the serious to the hilarious – from health concerns to allotments, sausage-making and night skies to block paving and flowering cucumbers.
In the case of 70-year-old volunteer Stewart Rood, his support has led to a bonus friendship with the wife of the patient he has been befriending.
The benefits of friendship
He explains: “For people living with a terminal diagnosis, the isolation that Coronavirus has brought has been particularly difficult, and if as befrienders we can relieve a bit of that sense of isolation each week, we are pleased to do so.
“We really miss offering face-to-face support and look forward to the day those visits can resume, but for the time being we’re supporting patients via phone call and it does good for both parties as it provides a link to the outside world for us all.
“One patient I support has dementia and is not able to communicate by phone. His wife is his sole carer and can’t leave him. My visits meant she could have a bit of free time to herself, and of course this has not been possible since March.
“Instead I telephone each week to speak with her. We chat about all sorts of subjects, and in some ways this has led to me befriending my befriendee’s wife. That’s what makes the care by Sue Ryder special – we look after the whole family.
“Each week I enjoy seeing where my weekly chats will take me… anything from badgers to Vietnam, to footballers’ pay and making marmalade!”
Going the extra mile
To continue supporting patients who are shielding, some volunteers have been delivering shopping or making door stop deliveries of home-made cake or cooked meals. Others have taken to making video calls during walks so they can share the views with patients, and another volunteer has been writing a short story each week to send to her befriendee.
Elise Hoadley, Hospice Director, said, “We are truly grateful to our team of Volunteer Befrienders for all their care, commitment and creativity in making sure they can continue to be there when it matters for our patients during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.
“Their care is personal and heartfelt, even when circumstances make it a challenge. I know the support they give means a great deal to our patients and their carers.”
- To find out more about hospice volunteer programmes visit Hospice UK’s Community Volunteer Hub