Palliative Care NSW Volunteer Support Services Programme
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Anam Cara Community Hospice, Geelong

Large wall-hung quilts in the sitting room tell the story of the people of the Anam Cara community hospice past and present.

The many hand-prints and jottings record the loves and highlights of each person’s life. Cluttered on the quilt, they collectively serve to remind us of the sacredness of the coming together and bonding of souls emphasised by the Celtic spiritual tradition of anam cara.

They are also a memorial for those who are grieving. “We have loved ones who visit just to press their hand up against their mum’s, just to be close” said nurse-in-charge Tessa who describes Anam Cara as the best place she has worked.

Anam Cara has a diverse offering of services. Laurie is a regular guest at the day hospice, a respite service offered to people in palliative care in the Geelong area. Anam Cara offers him support while his wife is at work, and he enjoys the activities and being involved in whatever is going on “like visitors dropping in from Sydney”. That’d be me.

The Anam Cara hospice building served for a long time as the residence for local catholic priests, and the remaining priests kindly relocated to allow the hospice to begin its work about 8 years ago. The work of Anam Cara is non-denominational. Downstairs there are 4 bedrooms which are used for respite and end of life support, and upstairs there are 6 bedrooms that offer accommodation for people supporting loved ones in hospitals nearby (Barwon Health and St John of God). Other amenities support the day hospice and the needs of guests.

Tessa explains that guests can self-refer or be referred by local service providers. “We have a great relationship with six GPs in the area who are very supportive of palliative care”.

Volunteer manager Gail said that Anam Cara has a volunteer pool of about 80 volunteers working over 5 service areas including administration, day hospice and end of life care. Volunteers undertake 2 full days plus 2 half-days of training using the Palliative Care Victoria training material and are supported in keeping with the Volunteering Victoria standards for palliative care volunteers.

Anam Cara House Geelong relies entirely on private and fundraising income for their operations. They recently achieved QIP accreditation as part of their demonstrated commitment to excellence in end of life care for people in the local community. For more information on their great work see www.anamcarahousegeelong.org.au.

Pic: (from L) Laurie, Morag, Tessa, Gail, Chrissie, Beryl, Carmel, Mandy in front of one of the Anam Cara quilts.

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