I had never been inside a hospice but I imagined it would be a very sad and depressing place to be. Somewhere where people just went to die.
I had attended workshops and Sacred Esoteric Healing courses with Universal Medicine, studied courses in Anatomy & Physiology and Diet and Nutrition, became a practitioner member of the Esoteric Practitioners Association.
An article in the local newspaper called for more volunteer Complementary Therapists at the local hospice and I knew this was a call to me. I applied and went through the lengthy and detailed vetting process. In the hospice, the word ‘healing’ is not used, as some patients believe that a cure is being offered, and can be disappointed when this is not the case, so the expression ‘Therapeutic Touch’ is used.
On my first visit to the hospice I entered with some trepidation. Could I handle the suffering I would encounter? I walked into the Day Unit and was met with laughter, an openness, and a feeling of love and support and this continues to be the case on every visit.
I visited the Day Unit once a week on different days and shadowed other volunteer Complementary Therapists. I occasionally accompanied them on the ward to offer a session to patients who were approaching the end of life, or had come in for a stay to allow the medical staff to assess and adjust their medication to allow them to return home with the support of the Home Visiting Team.
The ten rooms on the ward are so unlike a hospital. They are light and airy with a feeling of loving support from the medical staff, health care assistants, cleaners and everyone who is there to support the patients and their families. Each room has French windows opening on to a garden. As well as being adorned with photographs and cherished objects from home, each room is also equipped with all the necessary medical devices. Family members are free to come and go whenever they like.
My probation completed, I was invited to join the Feel Good Friday team. Friday is the day when patients who are living at home come to the Day Unit. Some come with their partner and carer, some by themselves, to be together in mutual support, have a cup of tea and a piece of cake.
The focus is on them as a person and not them as an illness or disease.
The day patients book in for a Complementary Therapy session, which is also offered to family members and carers. There are several volunteers who make the tea and have time for a chat with the visitors, who become their friends. These volunteers are mostly those who have a connection to the hospice as they received this support from others when their partner or family member died at the hospice.
There is a lot of love and laughter but no oppressive sympathy, just an acceptance of what is going on for each person.
Å qualified nurse who is responsible for the Complementary Therapy team is available to assess any Day Unit patient and call on one of the doctors or physiotherapists to review their care if it is felt necessary.
The medical staff, doctors and nurses on the wards often refer patients for Complementary Therapy. There is an understanding that the medical team is responsible for all the medical needs of the patient. The Complementary Therapists have the time to be with the patient, offer them gentle touch with a foot or hand massage, and listen when they feel to talk. This is an equally important part of what the hospice offers.
Being part of the hospice team has shown me that there is as much love and laughter to share when a person is approaching the end of life, as there is in a maternity ward when a baby is being welcomed into the world.
There are many elders who discount the value of their lived experience but volunteering has shown me that as Elders in the Community there is always somewhere we can make a contribution which can be very supportive, even life-changing for others.
Mary A., UK