7 May 2023

Want to help others? Palliative care service calls for new volunteers to support residents in need

| Claire Sams
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Palliative care volunteer with elderly lady

Ms Perkins and Ms Doherty said palliative care volunteering benefits the volunteer and the recipient. Photo: Palliative Care NSW/Supplied.

A palliative care volunteer service has returned to the Tablelands region, but it needs recruits.

The Southern NSW Local Health District received new funding for its Goulburn Tablelands Palliative Care Volunteer Service, which allowed it to bring Emma Perkins on board as a permanent coordinator.

“My role is to recruit, train and support palliative care volunteers,” Ms Perkins said.

Her appointment followed the conclusion of a palliative care service that ran several years ago.

The service would support those living in Goulburn, Yass, Crookwell and surrounding areas and see Ms Perkins work alongside other coordinators in Eurobodalla and Bega.

Ms Perkins said the volunteer role came with training and ongoing support.

“What we’re looking for is people who are community members and want to give back to the community from across the Tablelands district, including Goulburn Mulwaree, Upper Lachlan Shire and Yass Shire.

“You don’t have to have any qualification, but life experience, compassion and listening skills are really beneficial.”

They are looking to build a team of 15 to 20 palliative care support volunteers.

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It would be available to those experiencing a life-limiting illness, their carers and their family members.

“When we talk about life-limiting illness, it can be a cancer diagnosis, dementia, something like motor neurone disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Ms Perkins said.

The individual would be referred to the service by a palliative care nurse or a doctor, and Ms Perkins would then meet with them to discuss their needs.

A volunteer would then be matched, with visits to take place either in the individual’s home or in an aged care facility.

“I want to really stress that the role is non-clinical,” Ms Perkins said.

“It’s sort of like the icing on the cake, if you know what I mean, as the service provides that extra level of support.”

The role could see the volunteer doing things like running errands, returning library books, giving hand massages, helping the recipient as they carry out tasks, paying bills or going on outings together.

Clinical nurse specialist at Goulburn Palliative Care Rosanna Doherty has been working in the field for more than 20 years and believes that, in her experience, palliative care volunteers are “really integral”.

“They were a really dedicated group that made a huge impact on our patients – not only in the community, but in the home, in the hospital setting and in residential aged care,” she said.

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Volunteering would take up two or three hours per week.

Most visits would take place Monday to Friday, with the exception of visits in nursing homes that may take place on the weekend due to staff support.

“It certainly has an impact in terms of somebody with a life-limiting illness getting that extra presence from the volunteer coming in, and doing those things, making a difference and just being normal – talking, listening to them,” Ms Doherty said.

Those interested in the Goulburn Tablelands Palliative Care Volunteer Service can apply online via the Southern NSW Local Health District’s website.

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