Palliative Care Hub Calls on Residents to Become a Befriender

This Befriending Week (1-7 November) Sue Ryder Palliative care hub based in Wallingford is appealing to people across South Oxfordshire to step up and make a positive difference to the lives of others in their community.

Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire provides expert and compassionate palliative care to people at home in the local community who are living with life-limiting conditions, as well as supporting their families.

The hub is looking for people to become volunteer befrienders and support patients living in their local area by providing companionship, helping them to shop or visit favourite places,   or offering respite for their family.

The hub launched its ‘good-neighbour ‘style befriending service in 2015 and since then it has provided approximately 9,000 hours of care and support to local people. It also runs a befriender-led café for anyone in the community living with a terminal diagnosis, their family and friends, and those who are bereaved.

Cathy Suggate, a retired nurse from Roke, is sharing her experience of being a volunteer befriender to inspire others to get involved.

Cathy said: “The hub is just amazing and when I used to refer patients I could really see the relief for the families of knowing that a loved one was being looked after by Sue Ryder. I decided there and then that when I retired I was going to volunteer for the charity.

“I just love befriending and would definitely recommend it to others. I get such a lot out of it including a real sense of satisfaction that I am helping people at the end of their lives, whether that’s by supporting the carer or the patient.

“I visited one patient at home and I would sit with him for a couple of hours which allowed his wife to go out. It can be very isolating for those looking after a relative who is so ill, and it means a lot to them to be able to get out and about. I also sat and read short stories to another lady which she really enjoyed. Recently I’ve taken a lady to some wonderful places locally that she would never have been able to get to. Without a befriender she would have been spending time alone at home.  I find befriending so rewarding because the need for this kind of support is so great.”

Befrienders are often paired with patients who share personal interests and hobbies and the role usually involves volunteering for an hour or two each week. No formal skills or qualifications are needed, but a warm and understanding nature and the ability to listen are essential qualities. Comprehensive training and ongoing support through individual and group meetings are always available.

Alison Clements, Befriending Coordinator at Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire, said: “Feeling connected to people is vital to our wellbeing and happiness, and our fantastic befrienders play a very important role, providing friendship and support to people during a difficult time in their lives. Whether it is listening to stories, sharing memories or enabling them to do the things that matter most to them, these are all acts that make such a difference to someone’s life.

“After a difficult 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need the help of our communities more than ever and we’d love to hear from people in South Oxfordshire who are keen to make new friends, develop their skills and make a real difference to people’s lives.”

For more information about becoming a volunteer befriender for Sue Ryder Palliative Care Hub South Oxfordshire, email alison.clements@sueryder.org or call 07910517274

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