Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why do I volunteer in palliative care?

I began volunteering with Hospice after being invited to participate in a bereavement support group.  None of the health care professionals working with me, and my palliative parents, mentioned this organization.  Having found more about the true nature of the hospice movement, and reading more about how to make dying more dignified, I am committed to helping those in similar circumstances. My mother died at home, my father in long-terms care. Some friends and family members could not give me support, due to their circumstances.

It is challenging working to support clients and family members. Like many other support groups, volunteers like myself bring lessons learned to the work we do. Whether we are teachers, or nurses, business people, or people with life experiences, we all have something different to offer. We continually update, and add to the body of knowledge around caregiving. With so many people in Lanark County needing our support, the challenge is in not overdoing it.  The challenge is in varying our activities, and in looking after ourselves, and our own family.

The rewards are huge. For many of our clients do not fear death, but fear the dying process. I have learned that there is nothing to fear. There are many ways in which we can assist them, whether that support comes in the form of emotional, social, psychological or physical assistance.  Each caregiver and each care recipient is different, and all have individual needs that are not being met by Ontario healthcare. It is in helping them connect with the resources available to them that we can truly feel we are giving back to society.

I feel incredibly rewarded by feeling that I am making a difference. There are many people facing death, who have lessons to teach us. It is with humility that I participate with the caring staff at Community Home Support. There are many professionals who work hard in matching volunteers with clients, those who coordinate Meals on Wheels, foot care, transportation and other services. Having retired, I feel useful, and able to share my education, experience and training with my clients.

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