Palliative Care Volunteers – At the forefront of ‘Being for Others’
For many years the Order of Malta in Victoria has actively been involved with community palliative care through Eastern Palliative Care, which it runs in conjunction with St Vincent’s Melbourne and Outer Eastern Palliative Care. Thanks to a generous bequest from the Richard Divall Trust to the Order of Malta, a new project to provide hands on volunteer support to care for frail, sick and dying patients and their families in the western and southern suburbs of Melbourne is underway.
The Order of Malta is funding volunteer co-ordinators to oversee the recruitment, screening, training, and scheduling of over 135 volunteers (including members and friends of the Order) across Mercy Palliative Care and Calvary Health Care.
“Our volunteers are an important part of a diverse team, who are focused on providing the best possible person-centred care” explains Tony Reeves, Order of Malta member and project leader for the Calvery Health Care partnership. “Whilst not substitutes for staff, our volunteers bring their own skills and experiences to help care for and support our patients, their families and friends”.
The volunteers provide an array of services. For families and carers, volunteers can provide respite assistance and bereavement support. For patients, they provide companionship and legacy work, such as writing to family. Staff also benefit from administrative support at the facilities.
For volunteers it is a demanding but rewarding and enriching experience.
“Volunteering in palliative care requires genuine purpose and commitment” explains Richard van der Merwe, Order of Malta member and project leader for the Mercy Palliative partnership. “It’s a great feeling that you’re out and giving somebody support that they really appreciate, and in lots of cases, really need.”
Volunteers receive a detailed orientation prior to commencement and are provided ongoing training and support. A biography writing service is also in the works with a training session to be completed before Christmas and aims over the next two years to recruit and train 80 further volunteers to provide this service. The project is also looking to expand the volunteer activities to include photography and driving duties.
“The volunteer program is an integral part of the way that we provide services to our residents with the special touch and connections the volunteers bring each day to the lives of our residents living in care” reports Jo, Lifestyle Coordinator, Calvary Health Care. ”Mood appears to improve during a volunteer–led activity”.
Interested in learning more about volunteering for this project? Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
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