A decade’s service: Mary Douglas doesn’t always have a client, but in normal circumstances she volunteers with Ballarat Hospice Care at least once a week. Photo: SUPPLIED

Giving time to guide, listen and care

May 22, 2020 BY

BALLARAT Hospice Care prides itself on providing quality, holistic palliative care to the terminally ill at home, with a group of specialist nurses at the front.

But also part of the Hospice team are dedicated volunteers. In a myriad of supportive roles, they work with patients, with the public, and behind the scenes, to ensure service delivery is smooth.

With Australia in the middle of National Volunteer Week, Ballarat Hospice Care is celebrating these people who give their personal time, so others with a life-limiting illness can have the best home care experience possible, and their carers, family, friends have the help and support they need.

One of these volunteers is Mary Douglas, who first connected with Ballarat Hospice Care more than 10 years ago.

“Once my husband reached palliative care, he said, ‘I’m going home.’ I had caring experience, but no great nursing experience, so my GP put me in contact with Hospice Care and they taught me so much,” she said.

“I could not have done what I had to do without their support, teaching of methods, and ways to deal with situations. I thought, if I could give back to Hospice, help somebody else at the end of their life, and make it easier on the family, then it would be a wonderful experience.”

In the current climate, Mrs Douglas is providing supportive care seven days a week. As a volunteer, she usually relieves carers to give them a break, or can elect to just transport patients to appointments if she needs her own time to rest.

“Sometimes carers might just want to meet a friend and have a cup of coffee, they might want to do the weekly shopping, or they might have to go to their own medical appointments. Each case is different,” she said.

Her role has helped her own personal development and is “tremendously” rewarding.

“My patience has grown, and I have greater empathy for people. I have a greater acceptance of peoples’ attitudes, or mood swings. I know that what may appear to be a very harsh statement from a client, is often just a result of their stress,” Mrs Douglas said.

“The gratitude and feedback is so rewarding. People are thankful knowing there’s someone there that can guide them, give them advice, just listen to them when they’re having a bad day, and not be judgemental.

“It’s fulfilling to know you’re able to make things easier for somebody else, and to know you’re trusted.”

For Ballarat Hospice Care CEO, Carita Clancy, the not-for-profit’s volunteers change lives and make a difference.

“Our volunteers are a highly valued part of Ballarat Hospice Care’s service and connection to our community,” she said.

“Our volunteers are the face of our op shop, raising vital funds for the service. There are volunteers who help us behind the scenes, cleaning our motor vehicles, coordinating the warehouse that supplies the op shop, helping us with events and providing a personal community touch.”

Community-based volunteers also fundraise for Hospice, and others in the supportive care area, like Mrs Douglas, are companions to the terminally ill, providing respite.

“Volunteers give back in so many ways. They enhance and enrich our services,” Ms Clancy said.

Contact Ballarat Hospice Care if you’re interested in volunteering on 5333 1118.