Keith is a Hospice patient with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and is befriended by Paul who recently retired from the Fire Service.
When did you start Befriending?
Keith – Paul and I were introduced in March 2015
How did you hear about the Befriending Service?
Keith – I was doing some painting at one of the Hospice Day Therapy Sessions and one of the nurses told me about befriending. She explained that the Befriending Coordinator arranges for a Volunteer Befriender to visit regularly for a chat. I told her I was interested so she passed my details to Sharon.
Paul – When I took early retirement from the Fire Brigade, I wanted to do something with my time. Although no members of my family have needed Hospice services, I have had friends who’ve been helped by them so I called into the Hospice to see what voluntary opportunities were available. I was interviewed by Lesley who explained the different roles. I was interested in driving but the Hospice had enough drivers at the time so Lesley suggested Befriending.
What was it that made you think Befriending would be suitable for you?
Keith – The Befriending Co-ordinator came to see me and explained the service. I hadn’t been out, except to the Hospice, for 5 or 6 months and I missed the social interaction with people. Although I’ve spent a lot of time in hospital over my 70 years I’ve always maintained my mobility so I could cope. However, the loss of my mobility has made me dependent on my wife, Sue, for most things. Most of our conversations had become health & care related so I thought it would be good for both of us if I could talk to somebody else and give her a break.
Paul – I’ve always worked in jobs where there was a lot of contact with people, which I’ve enjoyed as I like talking and listening. So, out of all the opportunities available at the Hospice, I thought Befriending would be the best.
How did you feel and what did you think when you first met?
Keith – I was nervous at first as I didn’t know what to expect. I was very grateful that somebody would be willing to give up their time so was conscious of not wanting to make it too much of a chore for him. Fortunately we hit it off straight away and he was soon laughing at my jokes.
Paul – Like Keith, I was nervous about going into the unknown but I felt a rapport with him straight away. We quickly found that we had a similar sense of humour which is a great ice breaker. It helped that Sharon stayed with us for the first meeting and was ready to introduce topics of mutual interest into the conversation. When she could see that we were getting along, the Befriending Co-ordinator asked us to make a visit arrangement but made it clear that if either of us wasn’t comfortable we could ring her later and cancel.
How often do you meet?
Keith – Usually once a week unless we need to cancel. Recently Sue slipped on some ice and couldn’t walk the dog so Paul called around to see if we needed help with the walks.
Paul – I usually ring on a Tuesday and arrange the visit for Thursday unless we have something else on. We have a very flexible arrangement. I’ve also visited Keith in hospital and in respite.
What do you talk about or do at the visits?
Keith – Anything and everything. We often have a whinge about things, share news, funny stories about our Grandchildren, talk about news, television, films and books, places we’ve visited.
Paul – We set some ground rules at the beginning to keep it light-hearted. We steer away from religion and politics, although we do have quite similar views on many things.
How do you benefit from the visits?
Keith – It gives me a goal for the week, something to look forward to. When I know the time is arranged I can suggest to Sue that she goes out somewhere to spend some money. I love talking so it give me the opportunity to share my stories and experiences and it really lifts my mood and puts something into that day. It also takes the pressure off Sue knowing that she doesn’t need to take me out anywhere.
Paul – I enjoy the company. I get a free cup of coffee and an interesting chat. I really look forward to it and I don’t think of it as a chore at all. Meeting somebody new and spending time listening to stories about their life is very pleasant and relaxing.
What do your family think about the service?
Keith – Sue thinks it’s brilliant. We all get on well.
Paul – Sue said to me last week, “I feel very safe knowing that you’re with him”. I thought that was such a nice thing to say.
Do you have any suggestions for improvements to the Befriending Service?
Keith – I can’t think of any areas needing improvement. The Befriending Co-ordinator is based at the Hospice so I know that I can always contact her or get a message to her if there’s a problem.
Paul – There is a good level of contact without too much pressure. The only way you could improve the service is by spreading the word and getting more people involved.