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New volunteer service gives extra support to palliative care patients

A new service using specially-trained volunteers is providing extra support, comfort and companionship to patients who are receiving end-of-life care.

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Tŷ Olwen Hospice, based in the grounds of Morriston Hospital, has welcomed its first seven volunteers as part of an innovative role within the Specialist Palliative Care Service, called Person i Mi (Person for Me).

The specially trained volunteers offer their time and a listening ear to patients who have life-limiting illnesses, are in the last months of life or may have no or few visitors. They also give family and friends a chance to take a break during visiting, knowing one of the volunteers can keep their loved one company.

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Volunteers received specialist training to prepare for their roles, which offer additional support to the high level of care patients already receive at Tŷ Olwen.

The volunteers work alongside staff to deliver one-to-one support to patients who may wish to share their stories, worries and concerns.

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Available eight hours each day, they can assist with more practical tasks such as ensuring patients stay connected with friends and family by helping them make phone and video calls.

Helen Martin, Tŷ Olwen Hospice volunteer support manager, said: “We believe that everyone should have the opportunity for companionship if they wish during their time in Tŷ Olwen.

“Person i Mi volunteers support us to enhance and improve the care we give to our patients and relieve pressure on family and friends.

“Most importantly, volunteers support patients by listening and being there for them at this difficult and personal time.

“We had a lot of interest and applications for this volunteering role, and were able to select people from a variety of backgrounds who had the personal attributes and life experience needed to carry out this role well.

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“It is a difficult role – it can be emotionally draining at times – so we had to identify people who had the personal attributes to meet the role.

“Now we have embedded this first group in to the service, we will start looking at recruiting a second group in the new year.”

The new role was developed by the Specialist Palliative Care Service Volunteering Steering Group following a staff consultation process.

Chinch Gryniewicz was among the first to be trained in the role. He is one of the seven volunteers who cover a rota for morning and afternoon shifts across the week, which fall between 10am-2pm and 2-6pm.

His training included a background to palliative care, the difference between palliative care and end of life care along with essential skills like active listening and using empathy.

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Chinch, an environmental photographer, has experience of end of life care, having been his partner’s carer when she was diagnosed with motor neurone’s disease.

He said: “I looked after my partner for five years –we knew her illness was terminal from the beginning. We decided her care would be at home and I would look after her, so I have experience and a big interest in end-of-life care.

Tŷ Olwen Hospice volunteer support manager Helen Martin and volunteer Chinch Gryniewicz.
(Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

“I also had cancer a few years back, and the treatment I received from the consultant and nurses on the ward was so fantastic that I always knew I wanted to give something back.

“So I was very interested in the volunteer role, and signed up for the training.

“The training was very thorough, and it made a big difference in my approach.

“I have spent time recently with a gentleman who didn’t have anyone visiting him.

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“He needed someone to be there and listen to his story and his life experiences – I found it very interesting and fulfilling.

“The volunteer role is reciprocal. I help the patients, but I take a lot from it too.”

Lead image: Paul Murray, Vice Chair of Tŷ Olwen Trust (left) and Tŷ Olwen Hospice volunteer support manager Helen Martin (right) with the newly-trained volunteers (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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