David has been a staunch supporter of Rennie Grove since the charity cared for his wife, Anne, over 10 years ago, granting her wish of being able to spend her final days at home with David by her side. David’s involvement with the charity started with fundraising, helping at events throughout the local area and even challenging himself with fundraising expeditions to Everest Base Camp and India and throwing himself out of a plane.
David then saw that Rennie Grove was advertising for people to join the family support services team and he decided to apply. Here he tells us about his role as a family support listener.
“When I applied to join the family support team, I can honestly say that I was amazed to be taken on. I didn’t have any experience of anything like this – and I didn’t have much confidence either. What I’ve learned since then, is that these were not the important qualities needed for this role. The most important skills I use in my role are being able to listen to people without interrupting and being able to keep a confidence.
“I did wonder initially how I would cope with talking to people at such sad times in their lives and hearing about difficult things, but actually I have found it really insightful. People I have visited have said some fantastic things even though they are facing difficult times and their resilience can be quite inspiring.
“In my role as a listener I will see either patients, their carers or recently bereaved people. Generally I will have two or three people who I visit at a time. Each appointment lasts an hour but you obviously need to allow for travel time too.
“There is always the element of the unknown when you visit someone for the first time, but you are there in a professional capacity and the training provided by Rennie Grove prepares you well for what to expect.
“We’re not there to have coffee with them or be their friend even. We are simply there to listen and help. We don’t take notes during a session but do complete a short report after the visit, along with our timesheet and travel expenses form.
“Rennie Grove make sure that we are safe as we carry out our roles. All our appointments are in the diary and every volunteer has to phone into the office to say when the visit is finished.
“We are also really well supported by the family support team. We have monthly “supervision” sessions which are run by a member of staff and give us the opportunity to discuss our experiences and seek advice about anything we may have found difficult from staff and each other in a wholly confidential environment.
“How much time you need to give is very flexible. Some people might only see one person at a time, while others see more and, like me, opt to help at some of the group sessions too which cater for the bereaved and carers. It all depends on how much time you are able to give.
“It is usually easy to see how the support benefits yours clients. People like to talk and they can say things to you that they can’t say to their families and friends and that is often a visible relief for them.
“Being able to provide this support is such an important part of the Rennie Grove service. If carers and family members do not receive the support they need, then it can be much harder for the patients to choose to stay and die at home, and this is what so many want to do. It is really reassuring for patients to know that their relatives have someone there for them.
“On a personal note, I am really pleased to be able to give something back to the organisation. It is a lot more than just a nursing service. The bonus for me personally is that it has really helped to build my confidence and I regard it as a great privilege that people invite me into their homes at such a vulnerable time. It is fantastically worthwhile to be able to help people when they need it. Even if it only helps makes things 1% better for people, it is worthwhile.
“To anyone thinking of volunteering in the family support team, I would say – do it! It is immensely rewarding. Be prepared for the unknown, be open-minded and you will benefit enormously.”
You can find out more about how to join us here