Helping to fill a void for patients

WHEN a person is nearing the end of their life and much of the focus is on their medical care, Teena Hardinge and Gary Fitzallen are there to offer a sense of normality.

As volunteers with Palliative Care North, Ms Hardinge and Mr Fitzallen provide friendship, support and respite to patients, both in the community and at the Melwood ward at Calvary Healthcare's St Luke's campus.

Ms Hardinge, of Launceston, said it was important for palliative patients to have someone to talk to outside their family and friends circle.

``A lot of people don't want to talk about dying, they really need to talk about their families and their lives, and often you don't talk about their illness,''  Ms Hardinge said.

``They want to get out and do what they normally do and if it's a bit harder a volunteer can help them do that.''

Ms Hardinge said volunteering in palliative care had been positive and rewarding.

``I've learnt so much . . . particularly to be present and in the moment when I'm with people - to not think about all the things we should be doing, but just think about now, and stop and listen,'' she said.

Mr Fitzallen, of Prospect, said it had helped him become a better person as he learnt to deliver patient-centred care.

Volunteer co-ordinator Leanne Barton said the service was recruiting more volunteers, with a seven-session training program scheduled to start on March 11.

Ms Barton said the service particularly wanted to fill a shortage of male volunteers.

``Our volunteers come from a whole range of personal backgrounds and they have life skills that they bring to this, and predominantly what we're looking for is people who have time to spend with others,'' Ms Barton said.

For more information, call 6336 5544, or email palliativecare.north@ dhhs.tas.gov.au.

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