Mayonne has been volunteering with Home Support for over twelve years now.
“My mother died of cancer over twenty years ago,” she explains. “She was living in Devon and wanted to stay at home to die. As I and my siblings didn’t live nearby, we were reliant on so many people and I was so appreciative of the help she received. As her illness progressed we spent more and more time with her, and I began to see all these people coming in and out, and realised just what a huge difference they made to her at the end of her life. So when I saw the advertisement for Home Support, I thought that would be a good thing to get involved with, to give back some of what we had received for her.”
Mayonne finds that the contact she has with the patients is the most important thing about volunteering. “Over the years I have met so many really wonderful people, each one of them completely individual – different needs, different interests, different personalities. Hopefully the patients are getting plenty from it but I get plenty from it too. I learn so much from them, they’re very impressive people.”
“Over the years I’ve seen about twenty patients,” she continues. “Several have been quite long-term, others I have visited for a shorter time. One patient was unable to speak, so we would go to the library. She loved reading, and each week we would change about seven or eight books! It was phenomenal! We would also go out and have coffee in various hostelries around the place, which gave her a bit of fresh air and a change of scenery. The other thing we loved doing in the Spring was going to see the lambs in the field along the road, it was absolutely wonderful. Other patients have liked to visit garden centres, sometimes to buy new flowers to refresh their gardens, sometimes it’s just for a cup of coffee or again a change of scenery. Sometimes it’s sitting with patients so that their carer can go out. I had one patient who was bed-bound, and for his wife it was a breath of fresh air for her to be able to go and do something that she wanted to do for a few hours, and know that there was somebody there that she could rely on to look after him while she was out. Sometimes it’s reading to patients; it’s a whole variety of things. Shopping is quite an important thing if the patient is able to get out and about. We have a lot of fun, we have a lot of laughs, quite often. Another patient, a young man, I was told I was going to be sitting with so his parents could go out, and the first time I arrived he met me on the doorstep and said ‘we’re going out’. He was absolutely determined that he wasn’t going to stay at home. He wanted to get fitter, and wanted to go out walking – just short walks – so we started exploring some of the canal towpaths. Every patient is different – their needs are different, what they want to do is different, and that’s part of the joy of doing this volunteering role.”
“A lot of the patients, and particularly their carers, are very grateful of having the opportunity of having a volunteer visit. I’ve had some wonderful cards from carers; the feedback has been extraordinary.”
“My training was over a period of six weeks, and then a weekend as well. It was very in-depth and covered all of our group, who were very disparate – some had had counselling training, some hadn’t, some had been nurses, all sorts of different backgrounds, and the training covered all the various things that we might come across and how we would respond. It was a very valuable and well thought through training programme. Then we’ve had the monthly ongoing supervision and that has been very useful. I’ve learnt so much from my colleagues, listening to them talk about the situations they’ve been in and how they’ve coped. And then on top of that we’ve had the specific training sessions, such as a recent really good moving and handling course that I went on, and again there was a lot of laughter there, practising using wheelchairs and getting in and out of cars, again very valuable. Thoughts change about how you go about doing things over the years, so it’s good to have the ongoing training. And of course the team at Phyllis Tuckwell is always there for any additional support that’s needed.”
“Being a Home Support volunteer has given me a real sense of purpose, a sense of giving something back to the community, and being in touch with the local community. It’s definitely something you get more out of it than you put in.”