Day In The Life: Volunteer Rehabilitation Assistants
Carole Simpkin, Mike Prendergast and Vanessa Penrose generously volunteer their time on our inpatient unit, promoting choice and independence by supporting people to enjoy light exercise and diversional activities. They are part of a wider team of volunteer rehabilitation assistants who cover different days throughout the week.
First we meet with the St Catherine’s physiotherapists to learn more about who’s currently staying at the hospice, so we can better understand what their individual requirements are.
We walk round the ward, popping in to speak with patients just to say ‘good morning’ and ask how they are. We try to bring a little bit of sunshine to their day and engage in conversations if that’s what they want.
We have the time to sit and talk, or simply to provide a listening ear. People sometimes tell us all about their life which is really fascinating and is one of the reasons we enjoy our role so much; getting to know people outside of their illness. We then open up conversations to discover what’s important to them and discuss ways we may be able to help.
We work with the nursing assistants in supporting people to get out of bed and into a chair, wheelchair, or to go for a walk. If the weather’s nice, we accompany them in the grounds, or even position their beds outside so they can enjoy the fresh air.
Sometimes people are really anxious and in pain when they first arrive at the hospice – they may have been in bed for weeks at hospital or at home – and enabling them to build up some strength if they’re well enough makes a huge difference to their wellbeing and quality of life.
With the specialist care and symptom management they’re receiving at the hospice, we notice people start to feel more comfortable and relaxed, and more like themselves again, and they often feel in a better frame of mind to enjoy some day-to-day activities.
It might be getting someone a book, a puzzle, an audio book, or a certain type of music to listen to. They’re small things, but it brings some normality back into people’s lives which is so important, and many say that they really look forward to seeing us for a chat or to do a jigsaw together in between visits from their family and friends.
We’re also an extra pair of hands to carry out tasks such as making beds or helping someone to shave or do their hair, which helps to free up the nursing team’s time so they can focus on clinical care. It’s a very rewarding role and we feel like we’re doing our bit to help the charity.
Before we finish at 12, we have a handover session with the physiotherapists to tell them what we’ve done that morning, and how our patients can be further supported to achieve what matters to them whilst they’re being cared for at the hospice.
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