Concurrent sessions

Due to unforeseen circumstances, some presenters are no longer available. The concurrent sessions will now be held as one single session. Luckily, this means we can all get the benefit of not having to choose which group to see and missing out on some.

Julie Jennings and Sarah Main, Bear Cottage Volunteers – Exploring the reality of a community of care within a palliative and respite setting

The role of a volunteer in a children’s hospice is varied and complex and inevitably involves forming strong relationships between patients, their families, other volunteers and the staff of the organisation. By working in partnership with others, we are able to build a community of care.
Through regular training sessions volunteers continue to learn about the importance of relationships, communication and therapeutic boundaries in palliative and respite care. These are there to protect all parties concerned. However we need to recognise that volunteers come from all walks of life and have their own lived experience which influences how they interact with patients, families and other parties who make up our community.
Volunteers come to understand that the reality of interacting with others can often be different from what they expected and sometimes these boundaries are hard to reconcile as they relate to patients and families in a more informal and practical setting. Often the volunteering experience can bring personal experiences to the fore. We will discuss the challenges that building these relationships can bring.
Finally we will explore how the process of offering support to others can take a personal toll and therefore the importance of sustaining a community of care that practices and supports self-awareness, self-care and learning from each other.

Anna Pelle, End of life doula – More to death than dying

I work with those that have a life limiting illness, their family and equally those that are in full health we talk about the months, weeks and days leading up to what I refer to as their final event. We talk about how they would like there end of life to be during the active dying stage, what additional physical and emotional support they want and we revisit those conversations with them and their family. My primary role is to provide support, resources and options around end of life to the loved one and or those close to them. I’m not a palliative care doctor nor am I a palliative care nurse, nor a grief councillor, priest, pastoral care worker nor am I from any other religious denomination, I’m not a social worker or a funeral director. I am an End of Life Doula. A doula is a non-medical role. A Doula is a flexible role and is tailored around what the client/patient needs, and wishes are. My hope for our community is that each person feels empowered and educated in their options and ultimately at peace with talking about death. We plan and prepare our weddings, birthdays, engagements months in advance why are we not planning or talking about our end of life with our community. Most people think that if they have a will then that’s it, that’s just the start of it…

Carl Milton, Palliative Volunteer – Cultivating a life-enhancing relationship with oneself

This abstract aims to clarify on what constitutes a healthy inner relationship with oneself. It will also examine techniques on how to cultivate an aware and life enhancing attitude, and why it is a beneficial asset for those involved in palliative care volunteering.
A healthy relationship does not consist of endless self-obsession, body narcissism or an overly rigid identification with one’s life storyline. We are more than the social, educational and cultural conditioning and events that have shaped our ‘identity’. We are also more than a random collection of neurotransmitters, hormones and chemicals. These are however, the elements that constitute our thoughts and charge our emotional reactions and responses.
Those diagnosed with a life-limiting illness can be much more open to examining pivotal questions of life such as, Who am I? Why am I here and what is life all about? Existential questions can arise when faced with challenges or major life changes. We are all capable of self-reflection and making conscious choices to tap into the deeper core wisdom that resides in us all. Volunteers who cultivate a degree of self-awareness can be more intuitive and in tune with the unspoken, as well as being able to communicate and take appropriate action when required.
As individuals with our own unique idiosyncrasies and world views – there is no one else alive who is exactly like us! Different meditation and awareness techniques will suit different folk. Incorporating practices such as breath awareness or spending some quiet time alone in nature can be conducive to meditative reflection. Art, music and dance can also release our innate creativity and bring us more into the present.
The oral presentation will conclude with a brief gratitude meditation.

Joanna Wagg, Volunteer, Bear Cottage – Exploring the loving thread that weaves through nursing and voluntary care

The main theme is exploring the caring role; being open to what might be needed and vulnerable enough to accept that sometimes I don’t know. Being present means being open to the experience of the child or family member in my volunteering role at Bear Cottage.
As a Registered Nurse, before volunteering at Bear Cottage, I often felt frustrated at being unable to give enough time to my palliative care patients on a general hospital ward, but I always made a way to convey my message ‘I care, you are not alone. I am fully here for you in this moment’.
Hospital nurses are notoriously busy, providing excellence in nursing care. The missing link, often through necessity, is the human emotional connection at a crucial time. This is my experience in busy hospital settings, not in palliative care units, where the care is on a different level, with altered emphasis. It is tailored and resourced to the l palliative care patient’s individual needs.
Coming to a volunteering role after many years of nursing has been quite an adjustment. Lacking the reassuring access to nursing notes and doctors’ orders, the relationship as a volunteer, with those receiving palliative care, is quite different. It is a mindful situation, where the past and future are immaterial. It is about being fully present and at one with the person in palliative care.
Ultimately liberating, it allows openness to anything, depending on each individual encounter. I give more of myself to each child in palliative care, to their parents, siblings, grandparents and friends, because there is no agenda and no job list to complete.
Giving more of myself I reap gifts beyond measure and thus I am sustained.

Maureen Doherty, Blue Mountains Palliative Support Services – A community presence with focus on visiting palliative patients in hospital

A brief history of our organisation. Created for the community by the community with the corner stone being about relationships. 2) Looking at some of the differences and challenges between home and hospital visiting. This applies to both the client/patient and the volunteer. I will explore the client perspective- safety and comfort of home, the freedom to choose who and what of their experiences they wish to voice and often the time to do this. In hospital, time is often very limited, their physical resources diminished and the knowing of dying more imminent. For the volunteer in homes there is also some comfort in a familiar interaction built in trust over time. In the hospital setting there is often only one encounter and this can range from “no thanks” to a powerful intimate connection. You never know going into the room just what you will encounter. 3) The relationship in hospital is sometimes more about connecting with the family supporting the dying. 4) Building relationships with the staff. 5) Essential for the volunteer is clear boundaries when communicating with patients and their families. I believe this will be of interest to volunteers as it comes from lived experience. There is a sense of solidarity in sharing common experiences and understanding that in dying we will encounter mystery. We also acknowledge the respect for individual and family rights and choices. I see my role as creating relationships with Palliative patients, their families and hospital staff.