“I was fortunate enough to retire early from a nursing career,” says Debby, “and after a couple of months off, I thought that I should find something to keep myself occupied.
I saw an advert for Phyllis Tuckwell volunteers and came along to find out more about it. It was then that I found out about the Home Support service. That was almost two years ago now. It just seemed a natural progression from nursing.”
“The team at Phyllis Tuckwell create a very supportive environment. You meet some really amazing people – not only the team but the patients too. They’re very individual, you never know what you’re going to get until you get there!”
“I visit the patient I’m currently seeing once a week for three hours, but some volunteers visit for less than that. A lot depends on the patient you’re seeing, some haven’t got the energy for more than an hour or so a week. Most volunteers go once a week from one to three hours.”
“Some of the patients I’ve visited have just wanted to sit and talk; they’ve just needed a good listening ear. I’m fortunate enough that the patients I’ve been involved with have had very supportive families, but actually sometimes somebody from the outside going in has a bit more time to just sit and be with them, and listen to them. I don’t think you realise how valuable that is. Most families have busy lives, so just to give somebody your time is important. I’ve also been amazed at the simple things that people want to do – often they just want to get out, because they can’t get out of the house very easily. Shopping trips are very popular, and people also like to go out and socialise, have a coffee and a chat, especially if it’s a nice day.”
“When I started, I went to a structured training induction, where I met other volunteers and members of staff, and found out about how Phyllis Tuckwell works, both in the Hospice and Beacon Centre, and out in the community. I also went to a session where I was given training in things that I might come across or be involved with as a volunteer, which was really important. Annually there are updates for different things that you need to be aware of and how they change, such as how the law has changed with regards to data protection and confidentiality, things like that.”
“There’s an amazing support network at Phyllis Tuckwell. We have a very good co-ordinator who is always at the end of the telephone, and when she’s not there there’s always someone to step in. They’re very good and can advise you. I also attend a monthly supervision group, which is invaluable. You get to meet other people and discuss things that have come up, so you learn a lot from your peers, who can help you to see things from a different perspective. It’s really helpful.”
“Every time you visit them, patients will tell you how amazing it is to have you visit there. They say ‘you don’t know how much a difference it makes’ and I think that’s true. When you visit a patient and then they die, their family’s feedback afterwards is amazing. It’s the simple things, like sitting with someone and listening to them, the impact that has for them is huge, it’s so humbling. Being a Home Support volunteer helps you to see the generosity that other people have. It restores your faith in people. It’s definitely a worthwhile thing to do; you get more back than anything you give.”