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Callout for more Palliative Care Volunteers for the Eurobodalla region

I would like to give your readers an update on the new Palliative Care Volunteer Service in Eurobodalla. In March this year we were able to re-commence a Palliative Care Volunteer Service in the Eurobodalla region with the successful recruitment and training of seven new volunteers and subsequent four new client referrals matched with four volunteers.

The immediate uptake of the Volunteer Service via client and carer referrals from the specialist palliative care nursing team, has confirmed the need for the Volunteer service in the community. The Service is also currently establishing links within local residential aged care facilities to offer volunteer support for clients who are alone at end of life or who are waiting for their family to arrive. This means the Eurobodalla Palliative Care Volunteer Service is again seeking men and women over the age of 18 from across the region including: Batemans Bay, Moruya, Tuross, Narooma and Tilba areas to volunteer for their community by applying to be a Palliative Care Volunteer now.

Palliative care volunteers provide social, emotional and practical support to clients, carers and families when a life is limited due to an incurable illness.

Death and dying, end-of-life, and palliative care can be difficult and sometimes confronting topics. The volunteer’s role involves supporting people along the way, as they grapple with these sensitive subjects. “Our volunteers provide one-on-one meaningful social support to clients, their family, and carers. It‘s about maintaining the best quality of life until death” said Fiona Sivyer, Project Officer of the Consumer and Carer Relief at End of Life (CCREOL) Project, which is a collaboration between Palliative Care NSW, Southern NSW Local Health District and COORDINARE, with the aim of establishing local palliative care volunteer services across Southern NSW.

Volunteers can also provide much needed carer respite. “Carers might want volunteer support so they can have few hours break each week. They might want a volunteer to stay with their loved one while they go have a shower or get to an appointment without worrying about leaving their loved one alone,” Ms Sivyer explained. “Having additional volunteer support means that carers can practice a little bit of self-care. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.”

There is often a need for more men to apply for the role as palliative care volunteers. “The ratio of male to female volunteers has traditionally been skewed in favour of females, but it is really important to have the blokes in the mix as well” said Ms Sivyer. Clients are matched with volunteers on personality, likes and interests. “Some clients would prefer to interact with another guy about common interests and concerns, tell their story” Ms Sivyer added. The same goes for carer support, if a volunteer is there to assist a male carer rather than a male client, it may be that an experienced male volunteer would be the best match. “People just want to feel heard and understood, particularly during such a significant time of life, so it is really important that we can make a good volunteer match and get it right for each client and their family”.

The Eurobodalla Palliative Care Service is also encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds to apply for volunteer positions. Training in cultural diversity and safety is provided to all successful applicants though as Ms Sivyer explains, “Many who are frail and at end of life, revert to their first language and take comfort in the familiar. Having a volunteer who has a similar sensitivity to the cultural heritage of the family can assist in the speed at which a bond of trust can be formed. We would love to have to have a greater representation from our first nations’ communities, which makes up 6% of the Eurobodalla community, as well as a wider base of culturally and linguistically diverse volunteers to best support our community at end of life”.

There are no actual qualifications or specific experience required for the role, though life experience, excellent listening skills, an ability to empathise and compassion are enormously beneficial. Successful applicants will receive free comprehensive training (2 days), ongoing support and supervision and will be bound by professional ethics of confidentiality. Volunteers must obtain mandatory security checks.

Working in palliative care is one of the most rewarding volunteer choices anyone can make. Not only does it make a huge difference to the person who is dying and their family, but also to the volunteer's own life. Volunteers learn to cherish each day, listen deeply and value life as a precious gift.

For Application Packs and further volunteer information contact Renata Sheehan, Community Engagement Manager on 0477 322 107 or renata.sheehan@health.nsw.gov.au

Applications close on the 3rd of May

Above: Luxmi Selvakumaran, Physiotherapist from Southern NSW Local Health District and volunteers Christina Giusti and Marlies Straub.

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