Graham volunteers for Compassionate Neighbours, a nationwide project Martlets is supporting to reduce loneliness for those touched by end-of-life issues. He explains why the scheme is so important, particularly at Christmas.
I’m a volunteer for Compassionate Neighbours and it has been such a wonderful and worthwhile project to get involved in.
For many people who are terminally ill and living alone it can be a very isolating, especially during the festive season. A friendly phone call can make all the difference and that’s why I signed up to the scheme. I was matched with Bernie* who is 79 and has terminal cancer. He lives on his own and I call him once a week for a chat. We’ve also met up in Brighton for a fried breakfast now and again which Bernie loves.
Initially, Bernie was quite depressed. He told me he didn’t really see the point in carrying on with life at this stage; he had lost his wife of 30 years to cancer and was struggling with loneliness. But he’s a lot more positive now than he used to be.
Bernie once said to me out of the blue, ‘You give me a purpose to live’, which really moved me. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that something as simple as a regular chat can make such a difference to someone’s wellbeing, especially at Christmas time.
A phone call may be the only contact some people have with the outside world on Christmas day, particularly if they are frail or ill. Memories may surface, good and bad, and they may feel anxious about what the future holds as the year comes to an end. Kindness and a friendly conversation might be the best Christmas present they could wish for.
Sometimes people can feel pressure during the festive season to feel happy as everyone is celebrating. However, that isn’t always possible for those living with a terminal illness. Bernie may need to express how he feels and that’s where I can help with a listening ear.
The majority of the care Martlets provides is funded by donations and local fundraising. So please, if you can, donate to Martlets this Christmas to help support local people like Bernie. Along with the Compassionate Neighbours scheme, Martlets provides specialist nursing care to patients at home, physiotherapy and mobility aids to support independent living, and complementary therapies and online social activities. Whatever you give will make a big difference. Thank you.
Help keep Martlets caring this Christmas
*A longer version of this blog was published earlier this year and includes further information on how to volunteer as a Compassionate Neighbour.