Everyone, no matter what stage in life, needs a friend. That’s why Strathcarron’s compassionate neighbour service aims to reduce anyone feeling lonely or isolated when living with a long term illness.
Jayne Lamond (48) got involved with the initiative 14 months ago. She wanted to help out in the local community and contacted Strathcarron Hospice to see what she could do.
In a matter of months Jayne was able to provide amazing support to people by simply being their friend.
Recently matched with 85-year-old Jean Kyle and despite only meeting each other after Christmas, the service has allowed the pair to form a genuine friendship and Jayne feels the experience enriches her life in a way she never could have imagined.
She said: “Nobody could offer me any amount of money or material possessions in the world to make up for what I get out of volunteering at Strathcarron.
“I love being able to offer my time and make a friend along the way.
“It’s an invaluable journey and I can only hope Jean enjoys its as much as I do.”
Alongside Jayne, there are around 70 volunteers of all ages and walks of life who each have something very valuable to contribute to the service.
Most importantly, these volunteers help to make Strathcarron the special place it is.
Jean Kyle currently lives in Larbert and says her favourite part of the week is receiving a visit from Jayne as they often go out for coffee together.
She said: “Jayne and I have a great wee gab and can talk about anything, not just things relating to the hospice.
“She always has such interesting stories which I love to hear.”
The volunteer-led service offers practical and emotional one-to-one support for people in their own home which provides a comfortable and non-clinical environment.
To get involved, Jayne entered through a training process and a match-up system, provided by coordinators Susan High and Mandy Ross.
The process is in place to ensure that the volunteer is compatible with the patient and the location of both their homes is suitable too.
Jayne said: “The match-up system is really good as it makes sure nothing is forced and allows natural friendships to form.
“You first go with one of the coordinators to meet your new friend and build up a relationship.”
Jayne also visits two other women in the local area during her spare time and believes that helping someone for even just an hour a week is completely invaluable.
She continued: “I can’t emphasise enough how important and rewarding it is to be a part of the service.
“It doesn’t have to consume all of your time and can be something as simple as an hour a week.
“But to some people that one hour can be so invaluable.”
Coordinator Susan Ross encourages anyone to get involved as the service aims to promote a compassionate community. One which facilitates and supports caring for one another during life’s most testing moments and experiences.
She said: “Strathcarron compassionate neighbours are volunteers who will offer a range of support to individuals and families.
“It could be anything from helping someone to stay connected with their local community, providing a listening ear, offering respite to their full time carer or simply sharing a cup of tea and a good blether.”
Introduced as part of a 2013 Scottish Government initiative in a bid to reshape care for older people, the service now provides unbeatable support to patients of all ages and genders across the local area.
Susan said: “Patients tell us they get a fantastic amount out of the service as it gives many a confidence boost, especially if they’re confined to their own home.
“We would meet with the patient first to see what level of care they’re looking for and progress from there.
“For some, they could be searching for a friend to talk to but for others it might be a contact to call if they ever need a hand with something, even for changing a light bulb.
“We then provide relevant training to volunteers so they feel equipped and ready to go.”
Jayne, who also volunteers at Strathcarron Hospice as a hairdresser and day care helper, believes that volunteering has made an incredible impact on her life.
She said: “You can be free and relaxed to chat about anything.
“It can make a nice change from talking to a nurse or even a family member.
“And the best part is, you make a friend out of it.”
Jean also agrees it has transformed her life. “The befriending system is so beneficial. It doesn’t feel forced and is a normal friendship.”
The compassionate neighbour service is free with no age restriction and is open to anyone looking for a friend.
Patients are able to refer themselves, be introduced by their GP or even by a friend or family member who thinks they could benefit from the service.
However, the compassionate neighbour team relies solely on volunteers and costs around £61,000 a year to run.
If you would like to follow Jayne’s example and find out more about the many volunteering roles available at Strathcarron, go to www.strathcarronhospice.net/Why-Volunteer-for-us or contact Susan High on firstname.lastname@example.org.