Shining a Spotlight on our Caring Communities Volunteers

  • 31 July 2020

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A video chat of our Caring Communities Volunteers

Caring Communities Volunteers

In February 2020, plans were put in place to roll out our Caring Communities scheme to patients discharged from the Hospice’s Day Therapy service. Later in the year, the scheme was to be extended to support patients already receiving care from Arthur Rank Hospice’s Community Team.

Originally, the scheme recruited ten volunteers which would visit patients in their own homes, offering companionship and helping to support social activities which are important to the patient.

However, in its infancy, the entire scheme had to be quickly adapted to cope with the impact of COVID-19, lock-down and related governance guidance. In many ways – and almost overnight – this sort of social support became more important than ever, due to the difficult circumstances the pandemic created.

Our Caring Communities Coordinator, Chris Barker, and the team of Caring Communities ‘befriending’ volunteers rapidly evolved their plans.

As they were no longer able to visit patients in their own homes, volunteers instead began to make weekly telephone calls to patients who had already been identified for the scheme, as well as those who were now isolating and unable to attend their normal Day Therapy sessions at the Hospice. In order to cope with this extra capacity, additional volunteers were recruited as a temporary measure. These were volunteers already known to Arthur Rank Hospice, who were at the time unable to continue with their normal roles in the Hospice.

They provide a listening ear to patients, helping them feel connected to the outside world and providing much needed social support.

What is it like to be a Caring Communities Volunteer? 

Two of our Caring Communities volunteers kindly took time out to tell us why they got involved and tell us more about the experience.

Diana’s Experience

Diana started volunteering for the Hospice 11 years ago after her workplace offered her holiday leave in order to volunteer for a Charity. Her first role was helping with the Hospice’s annual Star Shine Stroll. Her Caring Communities voluntary role is now just one in a long line of many different roles she has taken on for us!

Why did you choose to become a Caring Communities volunteer at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity?

“After becoming furloughed due to the pandemic, I found that the Hospice was looking for Caring Communities volunteers. It is always good to talk and I can talk for England, so this role just seemed like the perfect opportunity for me!

So far, it has been just really, really nice and I feel like I’ve really got to know the patient I’ve been teamed up with. Above all, I have made a friend, which was the whole point of becoming a Caring Communities volunteer in the first place.”

What have you enjoyed the most about your role so far?

“Being able to make a difference to someone who is facing a struggle in their life. I think that every ‘befriender’ would agree that the Caring Communities scheme has been a success. It has been crucial in battling loneliness, particularly in such an isolating time, like it has been in lock-down.”

Is the role something you’d like to continue beyond lockdown and can you tell us why?

“I won’t be stopping in this role just because I’m back to work from furlough.

I believe that if everyone could take just one hour out of their daily lives to help someone, the world would be a better place.”

We couldn’t agree with you more on that one, Diana!  Has anything changed about your volunteering role after lock-down?

“Nothing has changed for me. Luckily, I am supported in what I do for the Hospice by the company I work for.  My plan is to continue for the foreseeable future”.

Pauline’s Experience

One of our other dedicated Caring Communities volunteers, Pauline, also answered our questions:

Why did you choose to become a Caring Communities volunteer at Arthur Rank Hospice Charity?

One aspect that I particularly enjoy, from my several years’ volunteering in Day Therapy, is the one-to-one contact with patients, many of whom I know reasonably well. I saw visiting patients in their homes as a way of extending and continuing the social contact that I know so many patients miss, especially those that may be socially isolated. It is also a great way of providing a sense of continued contact with the hospice, when patients are not attending in person.

What have you enjoyed the most about your role so far?

Unfortunately, having completed the training, the COVID-19 lock-down hit before I had the chance to visit any patients. However, I have been giving regular telephone support to three Day Therapy patients, which I have very much enjoyed. I enjoy chatting and listening to their news and I believe that the patients have appreciated the calls. It’s an ideal way to give regular, friendly support, while also being able to provide a link with the hospice, and check that all is well with the patients.

How did your role change during lock-down, and how did you feel about this?

My role changed drastically during lock-down. Previously, I was attending Day Therapy on Thursdays and Fridays every alternate week, and often filling in on other days if required, so my hours reduced dramatically, and the face-to-face contact with the patients, which I so enjoy, disappeared at a stroke.

So, my tasks have changed and my hours are much reduced. However, I am very pleased to have had the telephone contact with patents. Also, the fortnightly Zoom supervision meetings ensure I stay in touch with at least some of the other volunteers.

Is the role something you’d like to continue beyond lock-down, and can you tell us why?

I started this role (telephone support) during lock-down, and would be happy to continue it, but I would also like to visit patients in their own homes, when we are able to do so.

Throughout June alone the volunteers made 158 calls to patients! Patients reported back that they have welcomed a call from someone who is non-clinical and feedback has included “I felt better after the call if I was feeling a bit low” and “the volunteer is a breath of fresh air”.

As restrictions now start to lift, the team is making plans for face to face visits to resume in the future (once it is deemed safe and patients are comfortable with this). Additional training is taking place via ‘virtual induction’ video-call sessions.

If you would like to find out more, please contact Chris Barker, Caring Communities Coordinator, on 01223 675868 or (working pattern: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9.00am – 3.30pm).

Patients known to Arthur Rank Hospice Day Therapy can apply to be a recipient of the Caring Communities scheme. To find out more please speak to the team who provide your care.