Friday, October 19, 2012

Be Surprised: Wherever you are, whoever you are, whatever your illness

Last week marked Hospice Care Week – a national campaign raising awareness of hospice care and what it means to all of us in the community.

There are so many myths and misunderstandings about hospices. People worry that a hospice is a sad place, a place where people go to die, or that it is there as a last resort.

I have been privileged to know many people who have received hospice care. Most have been cared for by hospice staff at home, but some have been inpatients on our ward. People have been surprised by the warmth and happiness that has enveloped them. They have been surprised at the efforts to which hospice staff and volunteers will go to try and make the lives of patients and families as good as they can be in such difficult times.

Hospice care is about helping people live with illness and bereavement, helping them make the most of every day. It is about holding onto hope, not giving up hope. People can meet others in similar circumstances, or they can get counselling and advice to help them manage the challenges of serious illness and dying.

Last week I was talking to a man who said the hospice had made him stronger. When he was first diagnosed with a brain tumour he was worried about how he would cope, but counselling and coming to Orchard Day Centre had made all the difference helping him to find the strength to go through treatments and surgery.
His experience is a good example of what we do and why we do it: we care about people and their lives. You might be surprised at the level of warmth and, yes, even joy found in hospices. Above all, we recognise what it is to be human and that every moment of our lives is precious.

I believe the role hospices play in society is crucial in trying to make dying better, but we need to be able to make things better for more people. I would encourage anyone struggling to cope with dying, either themselves or with regard to a relative, to pick up the phone.

You don’t need to wait for a doctor or nurse to suggest it. Advice is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If you are unsure, ring your local hospice. You never know, you might be surprised at how we can help.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Helping others: Help yourself...

The inspiring ‘Games Makers’ at the Olympic and Paralympic Games have given volunteering a high profile recently. Their enthusiasm and willingness to help has been a crucial element in making both events such a success and it is wonderful to see these volunteers being recognised for their contribution.

Volunteers have played a major role in community life in Suffolk and it is important to recognise the things that ordinary people do every day to help others in need. St Nicholas Hospice Care could not do the work it does today without its superb volunteers.

Michael has volunteered for us for 6 years. He helps keep the ward stocked with dressings, drives patients to and from the Hospice and helps count donations in the finance department.

There is also Sarah who, in her day job, works on a family farm but in her spare time supports bereaved children as a volunteer with our Nicky's Way support programme.

One of our new volunteers, Liz, works 4 days a week in London but gives her time to be a Hospice Neighbour, offering companionship to a patient in her community and helping out with errands. She is also a bereavement visitor, supporting those who have lost a loved one, and also finds time to be a Hospice Ambassador, helping others to understand our work.

Volunteering is a great way to support a cause you are passionate about. It’s a way to do something you have always wanted to do, but not as your day job. Volunteering can fit alongside work, student life, retirement and times of unemployment. It can help you develop new skills or brush up old ones. I have known many people get back into work because of their experience as a volunteer.

St Nicholas Hospice Care makes sure that our volunteers have the training and support they need with the  emphasis on fun and not on paperwork or bureaucracy.

It is wonderful that the London 2012 Games Makers have brought the world’s attention to the great spirit of kindness and generosity shown by so many people. Let us now also recognise the amazing contribution that people in our local communities give every day.

Volunteering can make a difference to your life and others. Why not give it a try?