Lu Butler is Hospice Manager at Warrnambool & District Community Hospice and oversees the 60 or so volunteers that are active with the group.
Lu explains that the group is guided by the simple aim of "helping the person in palliative care to live better".
They may offer overnight support, transport, and take clients on outings.Volunteers offer 2-3 hours per week but may be available for up to 6 hours or more per week depending on the person's needs and, if possible, their wants.
And it might mean creating teams of volunteers around any one client or family situation.
"We had one client with 46 different volunteers other clients where we could be working around the clock to provide support."
The population of Warrnambool is expected to increase by about 30% in the next 20 years, creating a significant challenge for the local health and palliative care service and an increasing demand for community support.
Volunteer-based community support was the vision of former palliative care specialist Dr Eric Fairbank and Palliative Care Nurse Deidre Bidmade. Eric was instrumental in establishing the Warrnambool Base Hospital’s Palliative Care Unit in 1986, of which he was Director until retiring in 2013. Warrnambool & District Community Hospice was founded in 2014.
The not-for-profit organisation's community visiting volunteer service has become an established feature of the local palliative care service system, performing some 2,000 care hours in the last 12 months with an addition 1,500 hours of volunteer support invested by volunteers on top of the care hours.
Dr Eric Fairbank has written a prosaic guide for volunteers called 'The Manual for Living and Dying in Style'. The manual offers practical insights into (1) how to live well and prepare for your own death, and (2) how to do your own end of life planning before (3) being present for others at end of life.
Although previously dependent on philanthropic funding Warrnambool Hospice received their first Health Victoria funding allocation a few months ago. The allocation was part of the $10M End of Life Ancilliary Service Grants 2018 initiative aimed at developing practical and timely support for people with life-limiting illnesses and their families/carers and was shared with 13 other not for profit groups including Anam Cara Colac, Fernlea House and Shannons Bridge.
Pic: Hospice Manager Lu Butler with Assistant Manager Fred Chatfield at the offices of Warrnambool & District Community Hospice. In the foreground is an artwork by Dr Eric Fairbank of the Dying to Know Day campaign image.