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Hospice volunteers get creative to support patients during pandemic

County hospice volunteers have found innovative ways to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, so they can continue to provide friendship and support for patients.

Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice in Cheltenham runs a popular befriending scheme, which connects people living with life limiting conditions with a volunteer for friendship, companionship and support.

With many patients shielding, hospice befrienders have switched from home visits to telephone and video support to make sure they can continue to be there when it matters.

Over the past five months countless telephone and video conversations have taken place, covering a vast range of topics from the serious to the hilarious - from health concerns to allotments, sausage-making, night skies and block paving to flowering cucumbers!

Some volunteers have gone the extra mile, delivering shopping to patients who are shielding, or making doorstep deliveries of home-made cakes or cooked meals. Others have made video calls during walks to share the views with their befriendees. One volunteer has even taken to writing a short story each week to send to her befriendee to read.

Stewart Rood from Cheltenham is a befriending volunteer. He said: "For people living with a terminal diagnosis, the isolation that coronavirus has brought has been particularly difficult, and if as befrienders we can relieve a bit of that sense of isolation each week, we are pleased to do so.

"We really miss offering face-to-face support and look forward to the day those visits can resume, but for the time being we're supporting patients via phone call and it does good for both parties, as it provides a link to the outside world for us all.

"One patient I support has dementia and is not able to communicate by phone. His wife is his sole carer and can't leave him. My visits meant she could have a bit of free time to herself and of course this has not been possible since March.

"I continue to telephone each week to speak with her. We chat about all sorts of subjects, and in some ways this has led to me befriending the befriendee's wife. That's what makes the care by Sue Ryder special - we look after the whole family."

Elise Hoadley, hospice director at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, said: "Their care is personal and heartfelt, even when circumstances make it a challenge. I know the support they give means a great deal to our patients and their carers."

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the charity, with its retail shops closing overnight and its fundraising events cancelled, despite incurring additional costs for PPE for its doctors and nurses. This financial year Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice faces a funding gap of £1.6million. To support the hospice's work with a donation visit 

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