Background A scoping exercise undertaken by an end of life care charity revealed that people living with a terminal illness can be socially isolated, navigating the end of life journey can be complex and bewildering, carers can find the situation overwhelming and may long for respite. Many carers also feel isolated in bereavement.
Aim The Helper volunteer role was created in response to this feedback, with pilot services set up in 2009. Volunteers were trained to offer companionship and emotional support to people living with any terminal illness and their families, and to combat the issues listed above.
Methods A robust volunteer recruitment, selection, training and support programme was created. Referrals were taken from health and social care professionals and from families. Trained volunteers were matched to clients to begin weekly visits. The service was evaluated on a continuous basis, using stakeholder feedback from the terminally ill person, their informal carers and the referrers. Every episode of support is recorded for analysis.
Results There are now 18 Helper Services across the country. Since 2009: 3,081 people have been supported 1180 volunteers have been trained.
Conclusion This is a highly valued service that has had a huge impact on a large number of people living with a terminal illness and their families. A more in-depth evaluation is underway which will lead to developments in the scope of the service.
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