This week is Hospice Care Week – a national awareness campaign aimed at raising the profile of the great work carried out by hospice staff, volunteers and supporters. This year’s theme is ‘we are hospice care’, celebrating everyone involved in providing and supporting hospice care.
Here, artist Peter Bourne, a grandad from Penwortham, talks about how he uses his creative talents and volunteers his time to make a difference at St Catherine’s.
For the past five years I’ve been volunteering in Day Therapy at St Catherine’s, carrying out diversional activities with patients such as arts and crafts.
I’m an artist by profession, and have worked in ‘art development’ with youths throughout my career, as well as running workshops in schools and churches.
I know one of the trustees of St Catherine’s, who suggested that I volunteer and use my skills to help out in Day Therapy, which I’ve really enjoyed.
More recently, one of the nurses asked if I’d be interested in getting involved in a new rehabilitation project on the inpatient unit. The grant-funded scheme – understood to be the first of its kind in the country – involves volunteers being trained to help the new rehab assistants to offer patients more independence.
Primarily it’s about helping patients with mobility, aiding them to get out of bed and sit in a chair or walk to the bathroom, or get in a wheelchair to enjoy some time in the gardens. But it’s also about promoting choice, and giving patients the opportunity to spend time doing activities which they enjoy.
So I come along for a few hours every Monday and speak with patients to see if they’re interested in doing a bit of artwork. I also enjoy doing portraits, and this is a really good way of opening up conversations and getting to know people. I like to chat with them about their interests and their lives outside of the hospice to get an insight into their character, and that helps me with the portraits.
Sometimes they just want to have a natter, which is fine with me – it frees up the nurses to concentrate on the more specialist issues if people like me are there to socialise with the patients and listen to what they’ve got to say and how they’re feeling.
Having someone to talk with can be very therapeutic, and it’s good for me too. I feel that volunteering at St Catherine’s is good for the soul. As I’m semi-retired, it’s also a good way to pass the time and meet people. The hospice is such a calm and comforting place.
People often think that you go to St Catherine’s to die, but in fact you come here to live well and comfortably, until the time comes. Many people also come here for symptom management and pain relief before returning home.
I think the rehab project is fantastic, and I like the fact that we’re giving people the opportunity to have their say and leave something behind. Doing some artwork, or writing a poem or a letter are all good ways of leaving something of yourself for your family.
People are sometimes frightened to talk about death, but I find that once patients have had that difficult conversation with the consultants or nurses at the hospice, they’re much more accepting of their circumstances, and they’re not afraid anymore. They just want to make the most of the time they have left.
I also enjoyed helping out during Dying Matters Week earlier this year, which raises awareness about the importance of planning for the end of life – it covers everything from writing a will and making funeral arrangements, to thinking about organ donation, ‘bucket lists’ and how you’d like to be remembered.
We went on the road in a vintage bus for the day, stopping off at places around Leyland and speaking to members of the public about their wishes. We used a chalk board to encourage people to write down what they’d like to do or achieve before they die – we saw everything from walking the Great Wall of China, to meeting Gary Barlow!
It was a really interesting exercise, and we’re doing something similar this week in The Mill café in St Catherine’s Park, asking people to write down their opinions and perceptions about what hospice care is all about.
There are countless people involved with St Catherine’s – from staff and volunteers, to supporters raising funds in the community – who all contribute to the amazing care and support of the hospice. It’s sometimes the small details which make all the difference, because it’s significant and meaningful for those involved.
I certainly get a lot out of my time at St Catherine’s, and am proud to be part of the team.