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A presence that heals

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Bright Vision Hospital’s only caregiver volunteer, Christie Yeo, tends to the needs of palliative care patients by providing companionship through extraordinarily difficult times.

     

Christie  Yeo began as a volunteer seven years ago by participating in various activities with patients. The mother of three enjoyed the flexibility of managing her own schedule and is able to set aside time to volunteer at Bright Vision Hospital (BVH).

“I started with simple activities such as morning exercises, playing board games and bringing patients out for refreshing trips.

When the BVH Community Relations (CR) team introduced the Caregiver Volunteering Programme three years ago, I decided to find out more about it,” she shared.

The CR team brought her to the palliative ward, and what Christie saw tugged at her heartstrings. She noticed that the patients have a lot of needs and were unable to communicate well with the nurses due to a language barrier.

It was then that she decided to take on the challenge of being a caregiver volunteer.

The hospital provided in-house training that covered extensive skills on how to communicate, clean, feed and transfer patients.


DSC06919.jpg Christie Yeo starting volunteering at BVH 7 years ago


Patients’ Emotions a Challenge

Christie volunteers every Tuesday for half a day. Her mornings start as early as 7.30am. She prepares breakfast for the palliative care patients, changes bedsheets or just spends time talking with them. These may be fairly simple tasks, but she feels a sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

One aspect that Christie finds difficult, till today, is handling patients’ emotions which can swing quite drastically. Most patients are hit by sporadic bursts of sadness and fear as they confront the last stages of their life. If left unattended, these feelings will eventually culminate in anger.

Christie takes up the role of companion to help patients cope with their emotions, especially those who are alone or without family. She usually starts by discussing general topics like TV programmes or asking them about their favourite dishes. Being able to speak in their language also helps Christie make quicker connections.


A Touch Can Be a Wonder
“Sometimes our presence and a warm touch is all that is needed,” she said.

She remembers a patient who was in such pain that it caused his whole body to shake. Instinctively, Christie held the patient’s hand in the hope that it would comfort him.

Surprisingly the patient slowly began to calm down. Realising that what he needed was companionship, she accompanied him until he fell asleep. Her presence helped to lift his pain and fear.

“Many palliative care patients want to be comfortable, to receive a friendly gesture or just being able to have a good day. And while it may take a lot of effort to bring a smile to them, I feel appreciated and get to learn a lot of things in the process,” she said.

To join BVH Caregiver Volunteering Programme, email community@bvh.org.sg

*This article was published in the Hospice Link newsletter June issue.