In Home Volunteering – Friends of Hospice Ottawa

Karen Whiteside, Volunteer

Karen Whiteside, Volunteer

We came across this great article written by Karen Whiteside in the Friends of Hospice Ottawa’s newsletter, LifeLines. It has been reprinted with permission.

Being a volunteer in our society is an important and vital position to hold. I have been a volunteer most of my adult life – lending support in politics, women’s shelters, school programs and in business associations.

Now I am a one year graduate of the Friends of Hospice Ottawa Palliative Care Volunteer Visiting Training Program. By January 2010, I was driving clients to and from their medical appointments. During the past few years I have lost two of my sisters as well as my parents – and that truly has left me with a very big void in my life. I enjoy my volunteer work with Friends of Hospice Ottawa: in some ways it helps to fill that void.

Last March I met my first in-home client. I remember parking at the end of her street because I was 20 minutes early. I was nervous, and wondered who and how she was and what we would do! Our Hospice nurse, Holly, had met with her and told me a bit about her. It was agreed that I would visit with her for 4 hours each week.

I sat in my car and tried to remember all the important details I had learned during my training. I reminded myself that I was there to be supportive, helpful and non-judgmental. I was to offer empathy, but not sympathy, and glad that I remembered the difference! I was pretty sure that I understood my role as a volunteer, but I was meeting someone new so I was naturally a little apprehensive.

I rang the doorbell right on time and was met at the door by both husband and client. We three had coffee together and then my new client and I began doing the chores she wanted done. My first impressions were of a bright, intelligent, articulate lady used to a busy life of work, writing, gardening and travelling! I was amazed at how quickly the time went by. Much later she told me how apprehensive she was about allowing me, her in-home supporter, into her life. She told me she almost telephoned the office to cancel my next visit!

We quickly realized that one 4 hour visit each week was not the best fit, so we began to meet twice a week for two hours. Our visits were unstructured – sometimes we went out for lunch, sometimes we just stayed in and visited, depending on how she was feeling. I truly enjoyed her company and was quickly realizing that although I was there for her, I was learning a lot about myself. This was her journey and I listened and learned. During our 6 months together, she maneuvered through surgeries and treatments, discomfort and pain with grace and strength. I feel privileged to be a witness to the progress she has made.

My client and I often comment on how well we were matched – a difficult feat accomplished by Holly. Matching a client with a volunteer is critical in providing a successful opportunity to enjoy life! I am honoured to be the one who has accompanied her on her journey.

Want to get involved with Friends of Hospice Ottawa?

Friends of Hospice Ottawa LogoFriends of Hospice Ottawa have several volunteer opportunities posted on the Volunteer Ottawa website. Visit us online to see how you can make  difference in your own life and the life of someone else.

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