Case Study: Highland Hospice Helping Hands

Tue 7 Nov 2023

Highland Hospice Helping Hands supports people who are living with an advanced, life-shortening illness.

The Befriending Networks member is a volunteer-delivered befriending service, helping befriendees to live their best possible life and to prepare for and experience the best possible death.

A new community

Carmen signed up to be a Helping Hands volunteer befriender in 2021, after seeing a poster in the local shop when she and her partner, John, moved into the area. Little did she know that she would end up relying on the very service she was providing.

'I thought it would be an excellent way of helping out and integrating into the local community, so I signed up, completed my training in September, and was given my first client in October.'

John started to feel unwell in August and was eventually diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer at the end of October. His health deteriorated quickly, and after one shot at chemotherapy in December, an inoperable tumour was discovered.

'Although we received some help and advice from the community nurses and Connecting Carers, we both felt very alone, confused, and scared. This was up until the point that Rhona Dunley and Carol Seaton who ran the Hospice’s Helping Hands service enquired as to how I was and paid us a visit.'
'Rhona asked to see John, and as a highly-trained nurse, was able to identify straight away that he would benefit from a syringe driver. This was put in place, and I was able to manage things a little more easily from then on, with the support of the out-of-hours Palliative Care Helpline when needed. But it was tough.'

Bitter sweet times

'During John’s illness, my daughter got married and gave me my first grandchild. I was so happy for her, but also sad at the same time, which was hard to process. Rhona and Carol listened to me and understood. It’s so important to have someone to speak to, and they were incredible. I honestly don’t know what I would have done without their friendship, support, and companionship at such a truly difficult time. These ladies are special – they have genuine compassion and I will never forget what they did for me.'

John sadly passed, and Carmen received counselling therapy, after being signposted to the service by Carol and Rhona. When she was ready, she went back to befriending. 

'Resuming my volunteer befriending work for Helping Hands has given me a sense of purpose. I want to be able to do for others what these ladies did for me, and I want to give something back to this wonderful service.'
'My client is a fabulous lady. She has some mobility issues, so I don’t take her out, but I sit and have tea and cake with her. My visits don’t just help her, they also give the family some relief – I am there for both.'  

Go for it

'I would say to anyone who is considering volunteer befriending to go for it. The Hospice offers excellent training, and I always feel supported in my role.'
'Life is short and you never know what lies around the corner. There will be someone right now who is in a lonely experience just like I was, and you could honestly be their lifeline just by offering friendship, support, and a listening ear. It can truly mean the world.'

To learn more about Helping Hands, visit their profile page on the Befriending Networks Directory.