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CALL FOR PALLIATIVE CARE VOLUNTEERS

Southern NSW Local Health District (SNSWLHD) is looking for locals willing to become palliative care volunteers in the Eurobodalla and Snowy Monaro regions. 

“Demand for palliative care is increasing. Volunteers are needed in our community to support patients, their family, and their carers as they deal with what is difficult stage of their lives,” said Kate Bowman, Manager of the Volunteer Support Services Programme at Palliative Care NSW.  
COVID-19 has left a huge gap in many palliative care volunteer services with many now unable to provide the face-to-face support to clients and carers they used to.

“We are now looking to recruit more volunteers since many existing volunteers are vulnerable to the coronavirus and cannot continue to provide face-to-face support. We hope others will step up and volunteer their time to ensure these important community services continue,” Ms Bowman said.

It’s a common misconception that palliative care is only required for terminal care at the very end of life. In fact, the opposite is true. Palliative care is all about supporting people who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting illness to live well for as long as possible.

Volunteers provide social support to clients, their family, and carers. Death and dying, end-of-life, and palliative care can be difficult and sometimes confronting topics. The volunteer’s role involves supporting people, as they grapple with these sensitive subjects.

They also provide much needed carer respite. “Carers might want volunteer support so they can have few hours break. They might want a volunteer to stay with their loved one while they go have a shower or get to the hairdresser for example without worrying about leaving their loved one alone,” Ms Bowman explained.

“Having additional volunteer support means that carers can practice a little bit of self-care. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.”

SNSWLHD is encouraging members of the community who would like to become a palliative care volunteer to get in touch with the service and become part of the program.  Eurobodalla Palliative Care Volunteer Dinah Lightfoot tells us it is a very special stage of life to be involved in.

“It’s an absolute privilege to be asked to be part of someone’s final stages of their life.  The role of a palliative care volunteer isn’t for everyone, there is a lot of listening to be done and waiting for the right opportunities to help in the way which is right for the person and the family you’re helping.” 

Restrictions imposed by the current COVID-19 pandemic have left many clients and carers, especially within in aged care facilities, feeling isolated and lonely. It has also forced services to reimagine how they can best provide social support whilst maintaining social distancing protocols. One solution is to use communication technologies to foster connections, but this can only work if everyone is comfortable working with the equipment and software required.

“With this in mind we are also calling for people to volunteer for IT support positions – people who could assist volunteers, clients and carers to use a variety of communication technologies, equipment and software.”

“This will enable many of the Community-based Volunteers to continue safely supporting clients and carers during these difficult times”, said Kate Bowman, Manager, Volunteer Support Services Programme, Palliative Care NSW.

No qualifications are necessary for this role, just some knowledge of information and communication technologies, an enjoyment of communicating and assisting others in their use and a desire to give back to your community.

“Working in palliative care is one of the most rewarding volunteer choices anyone can make. Not only does it make a huge difference to the person who is dying and their family, but also to the volunteer's own life. Volunteers learn to cherish each day, listen deeply and value life as a precious gift.”

To find out more about becoming a palliative care volunteer in your local area contact the SNSWLHD Volunteer Coordinator, renata.sheehan@health.nsw.gov.au

Dinah Lightfoot Audio/Clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgeduhJKQmM&t=1s

SNSWLHD Palliative Care Facts

What is palliative care?

  • Palliative Care is specialised health care which looks after people whose illness is not curable. This is an illness that will eventually end life. It aims to give comfort and support by managing pain and other symptoms so people can live life as well as possible.
  • Palliative Care considers the needs of the ‘whole’ person, including physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs. It also includes the support of carers and families. Palliative care is not used to end life.
  • Palliative care services referrals are available through the Southern NSW Local Health District Central Intake Service - 1800 999 880.
  • Palliative care can be provided at home, in residential aged care and in the Southern NSW Local Health District facilities by families, GPs, non-government care providers, community nurses and hospital staff.
  • Palliative Care volunteers come from diverse backgrounds.  There are no formal qualifications or specific experience necessary, and life experiences and compassion are enormously beneficial.

What is a palliative Care Volunteer Service?

  • In NSW there are around 44 palliative care volunteer services hosting over 1600 volunteers.
  • Palliative Care Volunteer Services are provided free to people of any age living with an illness which is not curable.
  • Services also provide support to carers and families. Volunteers can provide support by phone or video calls or by visiting people at their place of residence.
  • Palliative care volunteers are highly trained for their role and offer their clients a wide range of confidential social supports.
Last updated: 20 November 2020
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