Friendly faces in times of sadness

Compassion: Palliative Care volunteers Sandra and Roman Skarsky are happy to give their time. Picture: Anna Warr

Compassion: Palliative Care volunteers Sandra and Roman Skarsky are happy to give their time. Picture: Anna Warr

FOR Sandra Skarsky the role of palliative care volunteer is a great privilege.

"I believe the role of a volunteer is very important. The staff make it very clear that we are a part of the team," Mrs Skarsky said.

"We are all in it together, and especially because a nurse can't always sit with someone for an hour talking — but we can."

Mrs Skarsky, from Fairfield, volunteers at Liverpool Hospital, as does her husband Roman.

The pair started volunteering after they retired.

They completed an eight-week training course at Braeside Hospital last August before being assigned to Liverpool Hospital's palliative care ward.

Their role is to offer support for the ward's terminally ill patients and their families.

"It is something that I enjoy doing and it gives me great pleasure," Mrs Skarsky said.

Mrs Skarsky volunteers every Thursday and her husband on Tuesdays.

Their main role is to be positive and supportive.

"We don't put on long faces," Mrs Skarsky said. "We try and be happy and positive, and just talk to the patients and see if there is anything they need or want.

"Usually there is something in the room that will spark up a conversation, perhaps a picture and you get talking about where they are from — or their family.

"Sometimes the patients could be asleep or unconscious and there would usually be a family member there that might need someone to talk to, so we talk to them."

Mrs Skarsky said many family members stayed at the hospital overnight.

"We have a system whereby we have food vouchers to give them and we send the family member down for a meal so they can have a break, or we go down and get a meal for them," she said.

"There is also an end-of-life pathway that not all volunteers want to be involved with, but we are.

"This is where the patients are dying. Our role is to support the family and be with them."

Liverpool Hospital's palliative care ward is celebrating National Palliative Care Week by launching its new Jolly Trolley.

The trolley will provide a glass of wine or soft drink with some cheese and biscuits for patients and their families.

Details: To become a volunteer email Arlene.Roache@sswahs.nsw.gov.au.

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