A community Volunteer’s Experience 

The patient Mr X the subject of this study is 92 years of age. I have befriended him for 7 months to date in my capacity as a Community Volunteer.
Supporting patients' families and carers

The patient Mr X the subject of this study is 92 years of age and he is retired.  Mr X suffers from COPD and is on a 24/7 oxygen supply. He lives alone in a flat although he has 30 or so retired/elderly neighbors’ in the block, which has a manager present during the daytime.  Mt X has an agency carer who comes for an hour each morning to help him with his personal hygiene etc and another carer visits for an hour from 6pm each day. The patient's mobility is extremely limited due to his breathlessness but which has been compounded by the after-effects of several falls over recent years that have required surgery.

I have befriended him for 7 months to date in my capacity as a Community Volunteer with the North London Hospice. During my initial visits Mr X candidly explained that he was lonely. He said that the problem with being his age is that 'everyone else is dead', by which he was referring to his late wife, who died four years ago. His wife had suffered from dementia and he had cared for her at home. His brothers have predeceased him, as have most of his friends. He feels that he doesn't have much in common with his neighbors’.

He is an intelligent person with a varied interest in politics, sport, history, etc. He is a good conversationalist. He has retained his sense of humour notwithstanding his physical difficulties. I established common ground with him from the very start of my visits really. My weekly visits last for about 2.5 hours and the time flies, due not least to the contribution made by the patient himself. He regularly tells me how grateful he is for my visits and how much he looks forward to them.

When I saw him on my last visit he asked whether it might be possible for me to drive him on something of a nostalgic 'tour' around some of his old haunts in North London, where he was brought up and went to school; and another area where he lived with his late wife. He has a portable oxygen supply and so I will be able to help him in this respect when the temperature outdoors picks up a bit. He has also invited me to take him in his wheelchair to a local Italian restaurant one lunchtime!

I am glad that through North London Hospice I have been able to make at least some contribution to the patient's quality of life, given how much he looks forward to my visits and the stimulation it gives him during my time there.

What does hospice care mean to you?