In 2013 St Mary’s Hospice, Cumbria set out to create a sustainable network of volunteers to support local people with life-limiting conditions. These volunteers would visit people in their own homes, offering companionship and practical help such as shopping, if needed.
The original community neighbours already volunteered at the hospice but underwent additional training to cover manual handling, food hygiene, lone working and managing client’s expectations. The service started in November 2013 and as the scheme proved successful, more volunteers were recruited by working with other organisations such as Age UK, MacMillan and local groups.
By 2014, the initial funding came to an end, however determined to keep the scheme going the hospice accessed a grant from Saint James’s Place through Hospice UK and the scheme now has 36 volunteers visiting 34 people. In total 60 families and individuals have benefitted from the scheme. Some volunteers visit more than one patient or mix a home visit with telephone calls to keep in touch.
For the volunteers the training and support has proved invaluable and allowed them to develop existing skills. Patients are finding out about St Mary’s at an earlier stage of their journey alleviating fears they may have had. It also eases a hidden facet of living with a terminal illness – loneliness. One patient commented:
"I look forward to the visits; it raises my spirits as I am very lonely and it gives purpose to my day."
Originally published on ehospice: St Mary’s Hospice community neighbours service – a friendly face, a helping hand