“It just feels so good to have something we can hold onto and cuddle, especially for my boys, and I can’t wait to see my husband’s reaction when he sees them.”
Hans became a PCSE volunteer after finishing his working career and seeing an advertisement in the local library for a volunteer position. He thought he would be well suited to sign up and assist those with a life-limiting illness. He has now been a part of our program for over nine years, coming to love the positive outlook of clients and the privilege of sharing their stories during their end stages of life.
When asked to reflect on his experience as a volunteer Hans describes his role as a very rewarding use of time and resources, feeling incredibly humbled by the gratitude of the families he supports.
One of his most memorable moments was when the family of a client asked him to be a part of the memorial service and included a photo of him followed by the caption ‘Hans, a good friend of Donald’.
We are so grateful for the role Hans plays in providing our carers and clients with companionship and support. Without his dedication and time, we would not be able to offer company to those who may need some additional care as they navigate a challenging time.
If you would like to be involved in our volunteer program to help others with a life-limiting illness in our community please click here or call PCSE’s reception on 03 5991 1300. Alternatively, you can support our service by making a donation.
Over the past five years, she has helped support a range of carers and clients in a companionship role. When reflecting on her time as a volunteer Josie describes a great feeling of accomplishment knowing she has made someone smile and brought happiness to people’s lives, especially to those who have limited visitors.
She finds that during her volunteering experience it has often been the smaller things that provide the greatest reward. One of her fondest memories is of her very first client.
“I was asked to sit by his bed (as he was at his end-stage of life) whilst his wife needed to run some errands. Boy, did he have a story or two to tell. He so much enjoyed and was proud of what he achieved in his working career, but he was also quick to tell you to leave the room when he wanted to be on his own”.
When asked if she would recommend volunteering with PCSE she is quick to highlight the diversity and flexibility of our program.
“If I could say something to anyone thinking of volunteering, anyone with some spare time, perhaps once a fortnight or even once a month, and you are a caring, motivated, friendly and sensitive to the needs of others, why not join? We are an incredibly diverse group, with a range of ages, identities, skills and personal attributes that complement what PCSE is out to achieve”.
We are so lucky to have Josie as part of our team and thank her for her incredible contribution to our service. Without the enthusiasm of volunteers like her we would struggle to continue providing the highest standard of holistic care to our community.
If you would like to learn more about PCSE’s volunteering program please click here. Alternatively, you can support our service by making a donation to help people with a life-limiting illness to live well.
Glenyse Duck is a biography volunteer who works with PCSE clients in the ‘Sharing My Story’ program. She is an exemplary communicator, going above and beyond to make sure clients feel safe and supported as they create their personal biography. This reflection outlines her experiences as a volunteer during the pandemic as she transitioned her services online.
“My biggest struggle during COVID-19 was figuring out how to remain connected with my “Sharing My Story” clients, as well as enabling new clients to join the program. Transitioning to new software such as “Zoom” and “FaceTime” required not only myself but the client to familiarise themselves with, download successfully and then use the programs. Explaining this to a client who is not confident with technology was challenging.
One client and I ‘FaceTimed’ weekly for about an hour, dependant on her energy levels. She told her story while I dictated it and then typed it into a document later. Another client and I connected using his landline speakerphone weekly as he was elderly, deaf and not able to use technology.
Communicating with my clients, especially new ones, only by phone was very restricting so I wrote a short profile about myself and my experience as a volunteer. This helped me to connect with clients and give them confidence that their story would still be completed in a confidential and timely way. I included a recent photo of myself to give a visual connection.
I sent most information by email, including a weekly draft of their story thus far for each client to amend and return for the following week’s session. Sometimes I used text messages and phone calls to relay messages, receive change of dates, etc. from a client. I also used the internet to research maps, information and photographs of places that couldn’t be obtained directly from a client. For example, an old, fragile photo that usually I would scan whilst visiting in the home. Emailing enabled clients to send me additions to their story in their own time, when they feel up to it.
I had two potential new clients that were very relieved to know that they could still tell their story using technology through these challenging times. When the wife of my client successfully connected Zoom not only was she pleased with herself but her husband, my client, was very impressed with her and really happy that we could all still see each other. He was worried that his almost completed story would not be finished. He had limited English, relying on his wife to interpret his story correctly.
Using FaceTime to communicate with clients gave us a visual connection, allowing them the confidence to share personal information and receive empathy from me, a visually powerful tool. It’s much harder to relay this reassurance using words only by phone. However, we all still shared laughter and tears no matter the medium.
My biggest challenge using these modes of communication has been developing the initial trust and rapport with clients participating in the Sharing My Story Program. At first, I thought how could we even continue to offer this program to clients with a life- limiting illness, to leave their written story for family and friends? Not being able to physically meet and share in this unique role was very challenging. Using these new ways to connect, however difficult at first, has been a very useful tool. I can see it being of use in the future for clients who have heavy demands on their home life. Not having to prepare for yet another visitor, just chatting by phone or by email whenever they feel well enough could be easier, especially once an initial relationship has been developed. In the future I can see these added tools enhancing the Sharing My Story program.
I am rewarded every time I connect and receive gratification from my clients and families, especially once they see their completed story in print. The thought of turning down a client, even in those daunting times, was unthinkable to me. I missed not being able to physically connect initially and then to personally present the completed biography to my client, but the fact I could still provide this service is indescribable. It remains a great honour for me to be part of PCSE’s volunteer program.”
If you would like to learn more about our volunteer program or register your interest please click here.
Penny Haringsma was a beautiful wife to her devoted husband Michael and a proud, dedicated and loving mother to her children Zoe and Riley. She beamed with positivity, loved to laugh and valued time with her friends and family above anything. Her ability to embrace hardship with a positive outlook was to be admired, with her determination to live well reflected in the impact she has made on so many people’s lives.
Penny began her journey with PCSE three years ago after being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Initially she received nursing care in the home, but after treatments at Monash Health under the care of Dr. Michelle White, her symptoms reduced and she was able to return to many of her favourite activities.
As she recovered our support began to change, transitioning from medical care to monthly visits which provided emotional and psychological support. During this time Penny’s lust for life was as strong as ever, allowing her to get back to the things she loved the most, traveling and spending time with her family.
In 2016 and again in 2018 she travelled around Australia extensively, riding rollercoasters, climbing Katherine Gorge and making it to the top of Kakadu. She didn’t let her illness control her, pushing aside any fear to make wonderful memories with her husband and children. Throughout this time, Penny continued to access support from PCSE.
As well as having the opportunity to travel and explore Penny re-entered the workforce as a ward clerk at St John of God. Her bright and approachable personality was well suited to the role as she loved interacting with everyone who crossed her path.
While Penny focused on living well PCSE continued to provide her with ongoing support. She regularly visited our Early Palliative Care Intervention Clinic (EPIC) to understand and manage her symptoms, embracing our holistic approach to care. In particular, she loved massage therapy and found it a valuable tool to relieve both physical and emotional stress.
Penny’s long-term commitment to our services in combination with her positive outlook ensured she had the highest quality of life possible. Even through the difficult times she held onto her spark as a passionate, warm, thoughtful and fun-loving woman.
As Penny’s condition began to worsen she returned to home care, making the decision to stop progressing with further medical treatment. During this time we ensured she had equipment available to help her from home, as well as regular nursing care and family support.
On the 6th of August 2020, surrounded by her family, Penny died in her place of choice. She is remembered for her strength, resilience and compassion, as well as how happy she was when spending time with family and friends.
Penny’s vibrancy for life, energy and determination to embrace every moment reminds us all to focus on what really matters. She epitomised PCSE’s vision to live well, making every moment of life memorable and full of joy.
We would like to thank Penny’s friends and family for their generous support to our organisation. The outpouring of donations from her community will be used to create a ‘Penny For Your Thoughts’ area in our new premises at 80 Victor Crescent, Narre Warren. The space will honour Penny and reflect her legacy to improve wellness for families living with a life-limiting illness. If you would like to learn more about our services or make a donation in memory of Penny please click here.