Delivering palliative care in the home means there are significant demands placed on carers. As end of life approaches for patients, it is important that additional support be available for carers. Fortunately, Ballarat Hospice Care has a dedicated crew of Supportive Care Volunteers who offer further support and care. Supportive Care Volunteers undertake additional palliative care education specifically to assist patients and carers in their homes. One example of the care and support they deliver includes providing respite for carers; allowing them to take a break from their caregiving responsibilities, reassured that their loved ones are not alone.
Other examples of care or support provided to patients and carers includes time in the home, conversations on the phone, or being out and about in the community supporting a patient or carer. They may spend time in shared conversation, providing emotional support, reading to patients, or simply offering a listening ear. They can assist with shopping, small errands, or transporting people to their appointments. The work they do in the home fosters meaningful connections, and also provides a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Over time, special friendships are forged and in some cases, new doors open as a result of the friendship and support.
This is one story of a friendship forged between Pam and Michael. Pam was the primary carer for her husband Murray. Pam quickly understood that as Murray’s health declined, her role was more consuming and she recognised, perhaps somewhat reluctantly that she would benefit from some time away from the home. Pam was prompted to consider a Supportive Care Volunteer by the Supportive Care Team at Ballarat Hospice Care.
For Pam and Murray it was a big decision to allow another person into their home. While Pam and Murray were hesitant, their concerns were put aside as soon as they met Michael their Supportive Care Volunteer. Pam said on meeting Michael she “was immediately struck by how kind and friendly Michael was.”
Michael said that on meeting Pam and Murray “Pam did all the talking…Murray did not say anything.” Michael jokingly mentioned to Pam that perhaps he (Michael) was boring as “Murray goes to sleep whenever I am here!” This was not the case as Michael is a careful listener, a great conversationalist and is truly interested in everyone he meets.
Michael gently talked with Pam and Murray to understand Murray’s interests and background. It was not long before Michael struck on a topic of mutual interest – their love of Mah Jong. From there they talked not only about Mah Jong, but also country music and Murray’s background of shearing. Michael is a whiz with technology, assisting with the setup of Pam and Murray’s smart TV. Together they found YouTube and Murray’s beloved Kenny Rogers. There was a bit of toe tapping and singing going for both Michael and Murray.
Everyone eagerly anticipated the time that Michael would spend with Murray. Michael and Murray enjoyed each other’s company. Pam enjoyed her time with her craft group.
After Murray’s death, Michael continued to contact Pam along with the Supportive Care Team to offer support during bereavement. The Supportive Care Team suggested to Pam that she may like to volunteer at Hospice in the Op Shop as Pam had a long career in retail. Pam has done just that and has fitted in beautifully with the volunteer team at the Op Shop.