Martlets is delivering Compassionate Neighbours, a nationwide project to reduce loneliness and isolation for those touched by end-of-life issues. Emer signed up to be a Compassionate Neighbour via Martlets and tells us what a rewarding experience it’s been.
“I’ve been doing the Martlets Lottery for about five years and I’ve always supported hospice care as it is so important to local communities. I decided I wanted to volunteer for Martlets but couldn’t commit to a definite day each week. The Compassionate Neighbours scheme really appealed to me as there is flexibility around when I see the lovely lady I’ve been matched with. It’s such a nice idea to offer support to people who are isolated and living on their own, and to carers who have stresses and frustrations.
The lady I’m matched with is in her 90s and had stopped going out much. So, me visiting helps to bring the outside in and reminds her about the world outside. She lives nearby so it’s easy for me to pop round there once a week.
I’ll usually phone her a couple of days beforehand and tell her when I’m coming over. Then I’ll stay for a couple of hours and have a good chat. I enjoy it because she’s so lovely. I know that some Compassionate Neighbours prefer to speak on the phone and perhaps for 30 minutes or so. It really just depends on how much time you have and whether it’s easy to visit in person or not.
I feel I’m giving my lady the opportunity to talk about whatever is on her mind and she also likes to hear what I’ve been up to. I give her the space to talk about her past and anything that’s bothering her. She used to live in London in an area where a lot of Irish people had settled so many of her friends were Irish. So, she was really pleased that I’m Irish as well! I think my accent brings back a lot of memories for her.
Anyone can sign up to be a Compassionate Neighbour and do the training, you don’t need a particular background or skillset.
I have a counselling background although I haven’t been practising for a couple of years I thought my listening skills might be useful. The training was so interesting. You do need to set boundaries when you’re a Compassionate Neighbour, but it is different to the counselling relationship. With this project, there is more of a friendship with the person you are connected with and the conversation can flow both ways if you want it to. But of course it is up to you how much personal detail you want to share about your life. There are also clear boundaries about what you can and can’t do to support the person you are talking with.
There is also ongoing support from the Martlets team. We get together regularly to talk about how we are all getting on as Compassionate Neighbours. It can be both interesting and challenging as when someone is reaching the end of their life they may want to talk about regrets and relationships and things they wish they had done differently. So, we discuss various scenarios in the group and ask questions if we need to. It all feels very reassuring.
It’s a great feeling knowing I’m making a difference in someone’s life and to connect with someone you wouldn’t otherwise meet at this period in their life.
My lady was diagnosed with cancer three years ago and sadly it is now terminal. I think just having the opportunity to be heard is so important to her. The amazing team at Martlets care for her and look after her physical and practical needs. I’m there as a social support as many of her closest friends have died. I can bring a different perspective and interests to her life. It’s been such a rewarding experience and I’d recommend getting involved to anyone.”
Could you be a Compassionate Neighbour?
Hilary Mackenzie, Martlets’ Compassionate Neighbours coordinator, says new recruits are always welcome:
“Last year, 24 Compassionate Neighbours volunteers supported 67 patients and carers at home. Around 200,000 older people in the UK have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month. It’s a shocking statistic and we want to help people connect across the local community. Our Compassionate Neighbours are trained volunteers who offer friendship and emotional support to local people who may be at risk of becoming isolated. So please do get in touch if you’d like to find out more.”
Contact the Compassionate Neighbours team for more information:
t: 01273 273400