A pilot scheme for people in Wigtownshire wanting to spend the last days of their lives at home is being launched this month and local residents are being sought to lend support.
The Community Companions initiative aims to recruit 20 volunteers to provide practical and emotional end of life support and companionship. Marie Curie will recruit, train and support volunteers within the area. Volunteers will work alongside Community Nurses, GPs and Home Teams, Marie Curie nurses and the Specialist Palliative Care Team (Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Nurses and Palliative Medicine doctors) who will continue to provide care and support to terminally ill residents.
Local Community Nurses recognised that there was potential for volunteers to enhance the current services available to people who are dying at home. They approached the Specialist Palliative Care Team, Marie Curie, and the Stranraer Cancer Drop In Manager, who have worked together to develop plans for a volunteer service.
Sara Murray, Volunteer Coordinator at Marie Curie, said:
“As the country’s leading end of life charity we know how important it is for someone to have a good end of life experience.
“Some terminally ill people who wish to die at home may not have friends or family on their doorstep. That is why we are looking for local residents who have time to spare to be there for people at the end of life.
“For a few hours a week, or whatever they can spare, being with someone in their final weeks, days and hours will make a huge difference. Whether it’s having a chat, getting out a photo album and talking about the images, to simply holding their hand, these gestures are so impactful.”
Eilidh Griffin, Charge Nurse Community Nursing, Rhins Home Team, added:
“The Wigtownshire Community Nursing teams have always been very passionate about end of life care.
“The Community Nurses are now a 24 hour service and are part of a multi disciplinary Home Team. There are more people wishing to die at home and the Community Nurses will do all they can to ensure this is possible. However some patients live alone, or their families become exhausted and in need of some extra support.
“This volunteering role will require patience and empathy, good communication and listening skills. Volunteers will be provided with training and will always have the support of Community Nurses, Macmillan Specialist Palliative Care Nurses, and Marie Curie.”
Stranraer-based Lorna King’s father died at home in 2022. He was supported by family friends, Community Nursing and the Specialist Palliative Care Team.
Lorna said: “It breaks my heart to think that people die alone, but sadly not everyone has such a support network. There are also people who do have support, and would still hugely benefit from such a service where someone could come sit, talk, read – just be there for that person. Allowing others to breathe and take time away to try and deal with such a hard situation.
“Having experienced first-hand the difficulties – mentally and physically – that someone’s end of life has, I think the volunteer service is a fantastic idea. The difference this could make to an individual would be incredible.
“I also fully admire anyone who reaches out to volunteer to do such a rewarding thing. I know it will be a great comfort to many going through this truly difficult time.”
Anyone interested in the scheme can learn more on 21st September from 2-4pm by coming for an informal chat at Cancer Drop in Centre, Galloway Community Hospital.
Training and support will be provided for all volunteers. To find out more please contact Sara at [email protected]