Thursday, January 16, 2014

When volunteers must step back

I tended to agree with this volunteer (read below). We cannot cure psychological, social, physical or emotional issues clients face.  Emotional contagion is a terrible issue for volunteers. We can use the technique of recognizing their pain and angst.
"You're angry that the toast is undercooked." (Sounds dumb, but people just want to be heard.)

Volunteers must know when to hold 'em and when to call in extra support, such as a counsellor. And handing over your limitations to clients means that some times you may have to step back.
I had to give up a client, with breast cancer, who was schizophrenic. She was also obsessive compulsive. Not due to any of the aforementioned, but her son was financially abusing her and nothing we could do would stop her. She was choosing to be a victim.

I gave her the language to deal with his begging for money over the phone. It did not work. She gained sympathy from being helpless, and the more we gave her, the more she demanded. He lives in Africa, and if she sent him money, her ODSP (disability pension) would be docked. She failed to understand many things and she burned out several volunteers.

You can only do what you can, try to protect yourself from being sucked into a vortex like this, and move on if you must.

A post on hospice volunteering:
It may show up as “grouchiness” or rudeness or the inability to find comfort no matter how hard staff, volunteers and family may try. These tend not to be the patients whose rooms we happily enter. They are not the “lovely lady” or “sweet gentleman” that volunteers sometimes mention in the communication book. They are more likely to be referred to as rude or even abusive – never satisfied – or angry.  
I am as challenged by the appearance of this type of suffering as my colleagues. Once I famously told off a patient who was claiming that I was trying to poison her with under-cooked French toast that “I have a PhD!” [In case you are wondering, my PhD is in history, not eggs.]

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