Weston Hospicecare: A day in the life of a day hospice volunteer

PUBLISHED: 08:00 01 June 2015

A day hospice patient.

A day hospice patient.

Archant

The day hospice centre at Weston Hospicecare, which is run largely by volunteers, offers people who are terminally ill a ‘beautiful place’ to share their experiences with others. Reporter Grace Earl went to find out more about life as a day hospice volunteer.

Day hospice patients enjoying a cup of tea.Day hospice patients enjoying a cup of tea.

“AM I doing the right thing? Will every day be sad with lots of people dying?”

Laura Skidmore looked apprehensive as she shared some of her initial fears about her new voluntary role in the day hospice at Weston Hospicecare.

Such thoughts and preconceptions about the nature of palliative care were things which now, several months in to her stint as a volunteer, Laura has worked hard to eradicate. Laura had kindly agreed to talk to me in the hope that her experiences could help to dispel some of the negative myths surrounding hospice care – consigning fearful and negative assumptions about hospice care firmly to the past.

Laura smiled as she pushed her glasses back onto her face. We were sitting in a room in the hospice’s grounds which, on any other day, would be used for counselling sessions. Yet today, on what was an otherwise thoroughly miserable Thursday morning, the room was ours for as long as we wanted.

Laura Skidmore is a day hospice volunteer at Weston Hospicecare.Laura Skidmore is a day hospice volunteer at Weston Hospicecare.

Laura said: “People do not just come here to die. They come here to live. By coming here, patients are given their quality of life back.

“It’s a beautiful place, and I really wish more people could just come in and see it with their own eyes.”

The charity’s day hospice, where Laura spends her Wednesday afternoons, enables patients to visit and receive cooked meals, entertainment, complementary therapy and – perhaps most importantly – some company.

According to Laura, one of the biggest benefits of coming to the day hospice is that patients are able to befriend others who are going through similar experiences and, in doing so, can find a much-needed source of support.

She said: “People feel safe here and are comforted by others. They’ve got someone to talk to here, and they always say they are glad they came in rather than sitting at home, feeling ill and lonely.”

It is clear from talking to Laura, a 57-year-old former care worker, that her work at the day hospice means the world to her. I was keen to find out what a normal day for her in the centre looked like; what, exactly, did she do to help people?

She said: “Whenever I walk through reception, there’s always plenty of smiles and everyone is friendly and helpful. It’s like one big family.

“Once my shift has started, I help patients to their tables and they have a beautiful three-course meal. They usually have a roast, or fish, followed by a gorgeous dessert – we’re big fans of cake here.

“After dinner, I take everyone back to their chairs for a cup of tea. We also put on a quiz. There’s always lots of laughter and everyone really likes to get involved.

“When I go home at the end of the day, I really feel like I’ve achieved something. Volunteering here boosts your confidence and you meet people from all walks of life. This is my favourite caring role and I feel very uplifted.”

Weston Hospicecare: Facts and figures

* The cost of running the day hospice alone in 2014 was £200,008.

* The average price per patient of running the day hospice is £95 per day.

* Patients are usually referred to the day hospice by their GP, although they can also refer themselves.

* It costs almost £3million per year to run Weston Hospicecare as a whole.

* Weston Hospicecare receives only 19 per cent of its funding from the NHS.

f you want to find out more about volunteering, call the Weston Hospicecare volunteer team on 01934 423975, email volunteering@westonhospicecare.org.uk or download an application form online.

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