Befriending service connects people together
As Viv lives on her own with emphysema and a host of other medical conditions which leave her largely housebound, life can be lonely. It’s why she looks forward to befriender Pat Nagle’s visits each week, when they spend a couple of hours together enjoying each other’s company.
Her son visits from Manchester as often as possible and she has a very close friend who is always on hand to offer help and support – but the regular company she gets from Pat, one of the St Catherine’s befrienders, is a social lifeline for her.
The service was set up in 2011, initially to support carers and hospice patients. Trained befrienders visit regularly to spend time with the ‘cared for’ person, allowing the carer to take a break and do important jobs – like visiting the GP themselves – or simply to enjoy some ‘me time’.
Since then, it has been extended to include people who are living alone with a palliative diagnosis – people like Viv, who benefit from the social interaction that the initiative provides.
Viv and Pat are sharing their experiences of the service this week (October 5th – 11th) as the nation marks Hospice Care Week. In 2015 the awareness week has the theme ‘connecting care’, and the Befriending Service is a great example of how St Catherine’s helps people in the community to connect with each other.
Viv, aged 70, said: “My family live far away, so I don’t always get to see them. My son lives in Manchester and he comes to see me whenever he can, but he’s very busy with his job. He’s a lovely lad and always cares for me when he can.
“Pat’s great and I always look forward to her visits. She helps me with the social aspect of my life – I have a neighbour, who also looks after me an awful lot, and without those two, I wouldn’t be here – it’s as simple as that.”
The service works to match befrienders and befriendees according to their interests and personalities. It’s why Viv and Pat – both cat-lovers who enjoy a good jigsaw – were paired together.
Pat is also on hand to help Viv with hospital and GP appointments – offering a reassuring, familiar presence during consultations. It’s also helpful that she is there to clarify and report back on any points Viv might have missed, something which can be particularly important as Viv has hearing difficulties.
Pat – who has volunteered with the service since it began and also gives her time each month to volunteer at the St Catherine’s Bereavement Support Group – said she gets a lot out of befriending, and really enjoys the weekly visits to see Viv, which she has been making for more than a year.
She said: “I like the challenge of meeting somebody new and knowing that when I come here, Viv can tell me anything.
“It’s good to know that you’re doing something valuable because one day, that could be me. I get a lot of satisfaction from being part of the Befriending Service and I really enjoy the visits.
“When people are at home on their own, and not well, they can sometimes feel like that they’re the only person in the world, but having a befriender reminds them that they’re not.
“Viv and I get on really well – the hospice tries to make sure you’re matched up with people who are alike and have similar interests. We’ve become friends over the past year – I even went to her 70th birthday party last month and met all of her family – it was a really good turn-out and a fantastic occasion.”
Viv has also been a patient at the St Catherine’s day therapy sessions in the past – another hospice service she enjoyed because of the social interaction it brought.
“St Catherine’s helped me to meet new people,” she said.
She encouraged people not to be anxious about what the Befriending Service might be like – and to give it a try if they think it could benefit them.
Viv said: “I’d certainly recommend it. A lot of people in situations like me can feel lonely. Pat’s visits make such a difference to that.”
If you’ve been inspired by Pat and Viv’s story and would like to know more information about the befriending service and how you can volunteer for it – click here.
Hospice Care Week is an annual event aimed to raise awareness about the work of the Hospice sector within the UK.
In mark of the week-long campaign, we’re bringing you five different examples of five different people who connect to St Catherine’s. If you’d like to feel more connected to your local hospice for #Hospicecareweek, you can donate £3 to St Catherine’s Hospice by texting the word ‘Hospice Care’ to 70444.
Texts cost £3 plus network charge. St Catherine’s Hospice receives 100% of your donation. Obtain bill payer’s permission. Customer care 01772 629171 Charity No: 512186
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