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Monday, May 15, 2017

Palliative Care: The volunteer perspective

Palliative care can mean different things to different people
For Lynn Archer, a volunteer with the Brockville General Hospital’s Palliative Care program, it is an essential support service.  “Initially, I felt volunteering with Palliative Care was for a single purpose: no one should die alone. Once I began volunteering I realized it has very little to do with actually dying and much more to do with supporting someone with a life limiting prognosis.”

Archer, who has supported many patients and family members as a Palliative Care volunteer, has felt first-hand the value of her efforts. “The reward of going to visit someone and being greeted with a genuine smile and a hug is something indescribable, and something you begin to look forward to.”

Volunteers focus is on the patients, but they often provide support to friends and family members. “I have learned about many illnesses and the toll they take, not only the diagnosed person but the family which surrounds them. I am amazed at the stamina and willpower of the individuals I see, even though they are aware there is no positive outcome for them.  There is no cure to make them well, yet they still power through each day as best they can.”

For Sara Piracha, who has served on several boards, the relationship with the people she has helped in Palliative Care has been the most rewarding.  “Over the last decade my volunteer work has been board-related and governance-focused, but Palliative Care allows me the opportunity to have a direct connection to the people we serve.”

Feedback from those who have volunteered with the Palliative Care team have shared that their experiences are often meaningful, intimate and emotional. 

“A patient, with whom I had the privilege of working with over a period of weeks, took my hand one afternoon and asked for a favour,” Piracha shared. “He reached into his pocket and handed me a folded up cheque. His donation was a gesture of thanks to the Palliative Care team for their care and support. As he expressed his gratitude, tears welled up in his eyes and mine. It was one of the most fulfilling moments of my volunteer career." 

Palliative Care volunteers participate in specialized training to provide the necessary support to patients and families, both in their homes and in hospital.  Although support is individualized to meet the need of the patient and family, volunteers may provide comfort measures, companionship, respite, transportation and other supports as required.  

To learn more about becoming a volunteer with the Palliative Care team contact a Volunteer Coordinator at 613-345-5649 ext. 4410. 

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