Hospice befrienders reach out remotely during lockdown

Categories: Care, Community Engagement, and Featured.
Simon, Celia and Deborah Leigh

A family cared for by St Catherine’s Hospice in Preston say the support they receive from their hospice befriender has been appreciated more than ever since the lockdown began.

The charity runs a befriending service whereby trained volunteers visit people with life-shortening illnesses in their own homes, providing company as well as offering full-time carers a chance to socialise with friends or carry out jobs such as shopping and attending appointments.

With the lockdown and social distancing rules brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the St Catherine’s support team wanted to ensure that service-users, carers, hospice staff and volunteers were able to keep in touch in different ways.

Deborah Leigh lives with her husband Simon, daughter, and 88-year-old mother-in-law Celia Leigh, who was diagnosed with lung cancer 18 months ago.

Deborah and Celia have enjoyed regular visits from St Catherine’s volunteer befriender Hardeep Singh over the past 12 months, and were worried they would lose touch when the UK went into lockdown. Instead, Hardeep is making wellbeing calls to the family, and writes letters to Celia too.

Deborah said: “Hardeep has become like a member of the family. It’s been a whole new experience for mum as she’s been given a great insight into Hardeep’s Indian culture. They have a lot of interests in common and they like chatting about books and the news.

“I’ve also developed a close friendship with Hardeep and she’s given me some brilliant cooking tips. Her visits give me the opportunity to have a little break from being a full-time carer and have some quality time for myself as well.”

Hardeep is no longer able to visit their home due to the government’s restrictions, but she has made sure to stay connected with the family in other ways.

“I was really worried at first that we weren’t going to be able to see Hardeep for weeks or months,” Deborah said. “But she’s been calling every week and it’s so lovely to hear from her and have a catch-up. Mum can’t hear on the phone so I’ve been relaying what Hardeep tells me, and she’s also written to mum which she absolutely loves.

“In a sense, the old ways of communicating and keeping in touch are becoming the new ways again. That contact is needed now more than ever as we’re all isolated, and we’re so grateful to St Catherine’s and Hardeep for their support. We get so much out of having a befriender.”

Cheryl Scott, Support Team Manager at St Catherine’s, said: “The outbreak of the Coronavirus has created a lot of new challenges for us all, and many of our services are affected by the pandemic and the restrictions imposed. We’re adapting the ways we work right across the organisation to make sure that we can safely continue to provide specialist care and support to people with life-shortening illnesses and their loved ones.

“Our volunteers have been amazing as always and are as committed as ever to support our important work. We simply wouldn’t be able to operate without them.

“Other ways we’re offering support during lockdown include recruiting bereavement volunteers to make phone calls; our team is making wellbeing calls to people who usually attend the hospice’s monthly carers’ drop-in sessions and bereavement support groups; and our qualified counselling service is being provided remotely using phone and video calls.

“We’re also making regular contact with our volunteers and especially those who are vulnerable and isolated, providing a food delivery service where required. Everyone is really pulling together and adjusting to the changes, and we’re immensely grateful to our wonderful volunteers and communities for their on-going, incredible support during these difficult days.”

For more information visit St Catherine’s Hospice

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