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QUESTION TIME: Q&A with a Watford end-of-life volunteer

 Published on: 31st August 2022   |   By: News Bulletin   |   Category: Uncategorized

An end-of-life volunteer from Watford, Janine Carter–Savigear, 43 gives up her spare time at Watford General Hospital to ensure as many patients do not die alone and are comforted during the last moments of their life.

What initially motivated you to volunteer for the NHS?

Prior to becoming a volunteer, I suffered quite a severe fall from a bike accident and was treated for my injuries at Watford General Hospital. Having seen the great work of the nurses and doctors there, I wanted to get involved myself to help the team where possible and give back to my local community.

As well as working part time as a fitness instructor, I also look after my elderly mother, so thought I could use my transferrable skills to another area that I knew needed support. The health service was a logical and worthy option and having joined in June 2020, I was proud to be able to support during a time where the NHS was under so much pressure, and there was extra pressure on staff and volunteers due to the need for many colleagues to isolate during the pandemic.

Why did you decide to volunteer as an end-of-life carer?

I have lost family and friends and on occasion been by their side during their final hours, so I understand the comfort that companionship and support can bring to both the patient and their family and friends – having someone near during such a difficult time can make a huge positive difference.

Though certainly a challenging and sometime difficult experience, I could see that there was a need for this role as a volunteer and was keen to help wherever needed, especially during the pandemic.

What does the work involve / what do you say to people as they’re dying?

The main role of an end of life volunteer is to ensure that the patient and their family are as comfortable as possible during an extremely difficult time. This includes sitting with someone at the end of their life, holding their hand, talking softly offering comfort there is not a set form of words as every patient is an individual.

Sometimes our role is simply to give the patient’s family a break, and to provide some respite. We also support the patient’s family, letting them know that we are there to comfort them as well as care for their loved ones.

What kind of important lessons has it taught you?

Being an end of life volunteer means that you are welcomed into a very intimate and private time during a family’s or individual’s life. You often create such a strong bond with the people you are caring for that you quickly learn a deeper sense of compassion and care that you may not have experienced outside of the role. In times of grief, families are so appreciative of your help and I often find they are grateful to have someone outside the immediate family to provide additional help.

Being a volunteer also teaches you to become a more tolerant and patient person in order to help the families in the best way possible.

Away from the patients and their families, it is also a massively eye-opening experience into the work that NHS staff do day in, day out and it was a privilege to be alongside them.

Why is being a volunteer important to you?

Being a volunteer is so important to me, knowing that in some way, you are making a difference to that person who is coming towards the end of their life. From brushing their hair to simply making sure they are not alone; I find that very rewarding and a privilege to share those moments.

Janine’s volunteering was enabled through Helpforce, the not-for-profit organisation that partners with health and care organisations across the UK to accelerate the growth and impact of volunteering.

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