Volunteering in the Nepean & Blue Mountains

  • by Kate Bowman
  • May 26, 2023

After birth, death is the only life event that is both inevitable and universal. Palliative care services at Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District bring people and their loved ones together with an integrated team of health professionals and volunteers, increasing comfort and quality of life at the time it is most needed.

Palliative care, sometimes called supportive end-of-life care, represents a transformative point in the patient journey. Instead of a focus on medical interventions aimed at extending one’s years, a more holistic and supportive approach takes over, focusing entirely on quality of life towards its end.

Carolyn Wilkinson, Volunteer Coordinator at Nepean and Hawkesbury for NBMLHD’s Supportive and Palliative Care services, is keen to emphasise the varied and complex ways in which well-conceived palliative care can positively enhance someone’s end-of-life experience.

PHOTO: Carolyn Wilkinson is Volunteer Coordinator for Supportive and Palliative Care services in Nepean and Hawkesbury with the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District

“Mitigating issues with symptoms and particularly pain is certainly a priority,” says Carolyn, “but that’s not all palliative care takes into account”.

“What does life mean to you at this point? What’s been important in your life so far?”

“Caring for people who are dying often means focusing on these sorts of questions, and we are also very much focused on whoever else is on that journey, such as family members and loved ones,” says Carolyn.

The nuanced work of palliative care aims to turn these broad considerations into a range of supports that meet the individual needs of clients.

“It’s a very integrated and holistic approach across inpatient and community services,” says Carolyn.

“Goals of care are discussed collaboratively with the family and the person themselves, and we then make sure that all the doctors, nurses, allied health staff and volunteers are united in striving for those goals.”

Holistic and personalised support

While medicine often still has a central role to play, palliative care also offers much needed companionship and a range of other practical supports. These supports can include accompanying patients to appointments, running errands, prepping meals, or providing much-needed respite for carers.

In recent years NBMLHD’s Supportive and Palliative Care services have also offered clients the opportunity to complete their biography, putting intangible memories into words, or helping to preserve and memorialise a life’s history using photographs, diaries, and letters. Much of this support is provided by dedicated volunteers who bring great experiential knowledge to their work.

Louise, a volunteer for over five years, says that caring for someone who is dying can be both rewarding and challenging.

“I’ve had experiences as a palliative care volunteer that have been fantastic for both the clients and for myself,” says Louise.

Robin, who trained as a nurse and has been a palliative care volunteer for over twenty-five years in the Blue Mountains, explains how her personal journey led to a fulfilling vocation.

“I started doing it because I had nursed my husband when he was dying at home, and I came to realise the value of being able to make that choice; to die at home,” says Robin.

“Because you’re not part of the family but are coming in as an outsider, often the client will talk to you about things they feel they can’t share with their nearest and dearest, and that’s very important.”

Matters of life and death

NBMLHD’s Carolyn Wilkinson says that while some may consider her field of work emotionally difficult, it is in fact a great privilege to share in and contribute to people’s valuable end-of-life experiences.

“Palliative care includes recognition and support for families and carers, which has a synergy with the beginning of life,” remarks Carolyn.

“Someone’s life may have a predetermined end, but even when their time is short they can still be supported to live – and sometimes they live extraordinarily well”.

Enquiries about palliative care volunteering can be made to the Nepean and Hawkesbury Palliative Care Coordinator, Carolyn Wilkinson at [email protected], or through Melissa Williams at partner organisation Belong Blue Mountains: [email protected].

MAIN PHOTO: Louise and Robin are long-serving volunteers with Supportive and Palliative Care services in the Blue Mountains.

This story was first published here by the NSW Government.

Upcoming Events

NSW Network of Managers of Palliative Care Volunteers – September meeting
  • SEPTEMBER 12, 2024
  • 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

NSW Network of Managers of Palliative Care Volunteers – September meeting

The role of the Network is to ensure best practice for NSW Managers of Pall...

Read more
2024 Volunteer Managers Conference
  • SEPTEMBER 19 - SEPTEMBER 20, 2024

2024 Volunteer Managers Conference

Save the date and stay tuned! The 2024 Volunteer Managers Conference is loc...

Read more
PCNSW Biennial State Conference 2024
  • OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 2, 2024

PCNSW Biennial State Conference 2024

Every day we hear stories from across the sector of those going above and b...

Read more

Become a member of Palliative Care NSW

Palliative Care New South Wales is the peak body in NSW representing palliative care providers and those with an interest in palliative care. Palliative Care New South Wales is a member of the national peak body Palliative Care Australia.

Join today and receive discounts, benefits and more!
Special member rate available for volunteers.

Subscribe to our eNews

Be the first to know our latest new, events, and research!