Ellen Lewis was one of the volunteers to be involved in a palliative care volunteer initiative from the mid-1990s based at the community health centre in Corowa near Albury. At that time the service had 18 or so volunteers providing support to the local community often in people’s homes.
Ellen recalled working within the dynamics of family life. ‘You know as a volunteer sometimes you wonder ‘what am I doing here, what difference am I making?’ I remember this one family where the woman (the primary carer) was making cups of tea and had the family coming and going and I didn’t seem to be doing much, but every-time I left she would come out and shut the front door and we would stand and talk at the car for half an hour, and she would debrief and let steam off and swear about her family who really weren’t helping her. I realised that that was where my role was for that family, to be there once that front door had closed. So eventually you always work out how to be of help.’
‘Families these days are not surrounded by a network of people and often social networks have changed. Even in big families where you might think ‘they don’t need us in there’ – often those are the families that really need you, because of the needs of the primary carer.’
VolunteerHub met Ellen when visiting Albury last month.
Pic: Ellen Lewis (L) with Louisa Thompson, Supports Coordinator at Mercy Health Albury