Doreen is a volunteer companion at Dorothy House. We asked her to tell us what the role involves and how it makes a difference.
I visit a lady one morning a week, in her family home. I sit with her for around two and a half hours and we have a chat and a cup of tea, so that her husband can teach an art class. He’s reluctant to leave her as she’s housebound, and currently bed-bound. He always rings about halfway through my visit to check everything’s all right.
I’ve been visiting for over a year now and she and I have great conversation. She talks about her family and where she’s travelled to in the past and I talk about my family and what I’m up to. I normally stay for 20 minutes or so after her husband returns so we can have a three-way chat. I get on well with both of them.
I’m not a medical person, and I’m not family, so perhaps I’m able to offer a different perspective – a different conversation. And we do talk about all sorts of things.
I think I provide companionship for the lady I visit and I enable respite for her husband. She was quite an independent person and she might prefer a quiet morning without interruption, but she knows her husband wouldn’t be happy leaving her on her own, so she has me.
She can do most things from her bedside, like answering her mobile or using the landline, or switching on the TV, but if she drops her book or can’t find her glasses, she’s a bit stuck. When I arrive, I can quickly scout around and find what she’s looking for.
I took a six-month career break from banking in 2015 and, although I’d always done some volunteering, I was looking for more involvement – something regular and for a locally based organisation. I knew people who’d benefited from the in-patient unit at Dorothy House in Winsley so I decided to volunteer for Dorothy House rather than return to banking.
When Dorothy House discovered I’d spent a lot of my working life visiting and talking to people in their homes, it was a done deal – I became a companion! There wasn’t much discussion, but it’s great – it’s a good fit.