Clive has been under the care of Phyllis Tuckwell for just over 18 months, and has been visited by Zul, one of our Home Support volunteers for around nine months.
In October 2016, Clive was admitted to Frimley Park Hospital. While he was there, staff at Frimley Park contacted Phyllis Tuckwell, to refer Clive for Hospice Care. When he returned home, Clive received a phone call from one of Phyllis Tuckwell’s Clinical Nurse Specialists, Diana, who arranged to visit him and his wife, Anita, at home.
“Diana was fantastic,” says Clive. “There are no words to describe her. The contact has been regular, constant and very supportive. If I’m ill or I have a problem or concern, she will advise me, she will seek the resource. There hasn’t been a time when she hasn’t been able to answer a question or provide what is needed. Everything I have asked her or said to her, it has happened. And she keeps saying ‘if there’s anything you need, just let me know’, and that’s fabulous.”
It was Diana who first mentioned Home Support to Clive. “She’s always providing me with new support, all of which are very good. She mentioned the Home Support service, and I said “fine, go ahead”, and it happened.”
Phyllis Tuckwell’s Home Support Co-ordinator matches patients with volunteers, according to the needs and preferences of the patient, the skills of the volunteer, and the personalities and interests of both. Each volunteer visits their patient for three hours a day, once a week, and the service is usually offered for a year. They may help with things such as driving patients to and from hospital or GP appointments, accompanying them to the shops or garden centre, helping around the home, or simply giving them someone to talk to. Patients frequently tell us how much difference this makes to their lives, and it also gives their carers a break too, enabling them to have a few hours to themselves, knowing that their loved one is safe and well looked after.
“I’ve known Zul as if forever,” says Clive. “As soon as I met him, I clicked. On a Friday he’ll be here, and I always say we talk, talk, talk, and soon the three hours are up. There’s nothing I can say against Zul; he has been a perfect volunteer. He provides an incredible intelligence, socially he’s great, he’s very respectful, and he’s always offering to help Anita too. He’s a very good volunteer.”
“At the moment I like his conversation so much that we just talk,” continues Clive. “The conversations we’ve had over the last few months have covered politics, economics, social issues. We talk as if we could change the world! We talk, we don’t argue. When he goes I feel rejuvenated and motivated – I feel that my brain has been stretched. Our views are more or less the same. We share a lot, we have a lot in common, and I think that is excellent.”
Zul has also offered to take Clive out for a drive or for a coffee. “I don’t like the cold so I’ve been housebound through the winter,” says Clive, “but he’s always offering to take me out for a drive, shopping, whatever I want. It’s nice to know – we’re waiting for the weather to improve.”
Clive enjoys the time he spends chatting to Zul, and looks forward to Friday mornings with him. “Unfortunately I only get one day a week with Zul,” he smiles. “I would like it to be more, but I know that he’s a volunteer and his time is stretched, and he’s needed perhaps somewhere else, there are other people in need of him. I would hate to lose him, but if I had to lose him for someone who needs him more than me, that would be ok. But I wish we could get more people like him.”
When asked what he would say to someone who had just been offered Home Support, Clive smiles. “I would say don’t be frightened, the service is tailored to your needs. I said I wanted a man, preferably, who could talk about current affairs and politics, and Zul can talk about any subject. He can even talk about plumbing – I found out he used to be a plumber! And I used to like being be a handyman, in my younger days. So we talk sometimes about that – but economics, politics and current affairs are our main subjects. Every time we meet on a Friday morning we kick off with what is happening in the world.”
As well as providing companionship for Clive, Zul’s visits also enable Anita to have some time to herself.
“I know that Zul’s good company for Clive,” Anita explains, “so I’m really relaxed when he visits, and I don’t have to worry. I go out – I do shopping, whatever I want to do within that three hours, and it’s really nice for me to get away, just to have a break. I know that Clive’s benefitting from Zul’s companionship and all the chats they have, and I don’t have to worry about him when I’m out. I can do whatever I want to do. We are very happy that Phyllis Tuckwell is able to provide this service for free. Before, we were scared of the words Phyllis Tuckwell, until we started using the service. But now we’re not.”