Community partners seek to educate and recruit volunteers for palliative care services in south Bruce County



By Tammy Schneider


On Oct. 29, VON Grey Bruce hosted a recruitment event at the Davidson Centre, with two goals in mind. The first was to connect with potential volunteers and explain to them what being a palliative care volunteer means, and second to increase awareness in the community about the palliative care services available.


“People need the service, but just aren’t aware it’s offered,” said Ginelle MacDougall, manager of home and community care for VON Grey Bruce.


There are currently approximately 180 volunteers working with the VON Grey Bruce, with about 70 of them involved with palliative care. Potential volunteers are directed to the aspect of palliative care that best suits their talents and preferences. Some may wish to provide bedside or end-of-life support, while others may prefer to participate in grief and bereavement support. Patients with a life-threatening diagnosis may be paired with a volunteer early in their illness so that someone is there to provide emotional, as well as physical support, throughout their journey.


Palliative care can take place at home, in hospital or in hospice. Because of this the VON has partnered with organizations that require the services of palliative care volunteers. Huron Shores Hospice, all four locations of Grey Bruce Health Care and Liz Laird, Palliative Pain and Sympton Management and Consultant for Grey Bruce;these groups were on hand at the event to offer information about volunteering at their facilities and what would be expected of them.


Cathy Herbert, the hospice co-ordinator at Huron Shores Hospice, sees great value in the partnership with VON, which assists them with scheduling, volunteer recruitment and orientation for new volunteers.


“Hospice volunteers provide emotional and practical support for residents in-suite and their families,” said Herbert.


As part of the three-hour event, author and assistant professor, School of Social WorkPalliative Care division lead, Centre for Education and Research on Aging and Health (CERAH) from Lakehead University, Katherine Kortes-Miller hosted a special keynote address titled Talking About Death Won’t Kill You. Kortes-Miller touched on messages that mirrored the goals of the VON, to educate the public about services offered in the community, and to get people thinking about what is important to them.


By creating interest for volunteers through the recruitment event, the VON hopes to draw in at least 10 new volunteers to support palliative care programs. The main goal, according to MacDougall, is to connect with people accessing the service, and letting them know it can be found in the area.