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Virginia - Volunteer Complementary Therapist

I have been volunteering as a Hospiscare Complementary Therapist since 2009. When people ask me why I give up my own time to volunteer, I tell them that it’s a privilege to work with the patients and their families and to make some small contribution to their wellbeing at a time when they are going through some of the hardest moments of their lives.

Let me give you an example. I volunteer in the Searle House Day Service the same day each week and so I get to know the patients quite well. There was a man suffering from MND, he was gradually losing his speech, his ability to eat and all movement. Because he was confined to a wheelchair he suffered from lots of muscle pain, particularly in his back and shoulders.

One of the few things that provided relief was his weekly massage with me. Hospiscare have very good facilities for their complementary therapy and I was able to use the equipment to help me support him safely during his massage. Because I saw him regularly I was able to understand his speech when many others couldn’t. Over time I also gave his wife massage and provided a supportive ear when she was at the end of her tether. And whilst I was very sad when he eventually died, I was so glad that I had been able to provide him and his wife with a bit of relief during their hard times.

From time to time I also work on the Inpatient Unit, and we had a case of a chap who was admitted because of pain. The doctors gave him enough medication to help him sleep while they worked to reduce his pain levels. As the time for his next dose of medication approached he became very uncomfortable, tossing and turning in the bed. I was asked by one of the nurses if I could do something to help as she wasn’t allowed to give him any more medication for a little while. I wasn’t sure what would help but after introducing myself (he seemed to be asleep but we always try talking to the patients) I asked if it would be ok to give him a gentle shoulder massage.

I could see that he was listening to me as he went still and seemed to murmur ‘ok’ in reply, but pretty quickly he was back to tossing and turning. It was clear that I wasn’t going to be able to do any ‘massage’ but instead I gently stroked his shoulders and neck in a soothing way. I was amazed at how effective this was as he grew still and relaxed. When the nurse returned with his next shot she almost didn’t give it as he was so relaxed. She said to me that she knew a massage would help him.

Sometimes I feel that the carers are almost in more need than the patients. I remember one time a patient’s family member came to see me and the moment she walked through the door she burst into tears! She said it was so good to go somewhere where people understood what she was going through and where she didn’t have to put on a ‘brave face’. I gave her a foot Reflexology and she closed her eyes and totally relaxed. From time to time a tear would trickle down her face but she assured me that she wanted me to continue with the session. Afterwards she said she felt much calmer, like she had had a long refreshing sleep.

Using my skills as a Complementary Therapist to volunteer at Hospiscare has not only helped support people at their most vulnerable times, it has given me a particular personal satisfaction that stays with me every day. It’s so rewarding to be part of this amazing charity.  

If you are a hairdresser, reflexologist, aromatherapist, or similar and would like to volunteer as a Complementary Therapist for Hospiscare, we would love to hear from you. Please call Vicky on 01392 688068 or email volunteering@hospiscare.co.uk. 

Click here for a Volunteering Application Form