It’s a feeling no family wants when they lose a loved one, the feeling of being alone.
That was how Carol-Ann Staples and her family felt when her mother died due to a brain aneurysm in the mid-70s. The family wasn’t involved much in the care and they could only briefly visit her in the hospital.
“It just wasn’t right to any of our family,” she says.
This very personal experience inspired Carol-Ann to take an interest in Hospice. She took a course with the Victoria Association for the Care of the Dying, an early supporter of Hospice Victoria. With her training as a nurse, she had the opportunity to do a preceptorship with Victoria Hospice.
Through tragedy and experience, a career of volunteering with Victoria Hospice that lasted over three decades was kick-started.
“It was just a wonderful opening in my life,” says Carol-Ann. Early on, Carol-Ann recalls volunteering on the unit at Victoria Hospice’s location on Bay Street. She describes the centre courtyard, an outdoor space patients and families could enjoy. A mother could curl up, in her bed, with her 10-year-old daughter and enjoy the warmth of the sun. It’s a memory CarolAnn remembers vividly.
“This is what I think Hospice gives,” she says, “time for families.”
Carol-Ann has supported Victoria Hospice in many roles, from working with the Child and Youth Bereavement Program to caring for patients and families on the unit. The gift of volunteering, she says, is having the time to spend with people.
Families would come onto the unit stressed and worried about the future, she says. Through the compassionate care of nurses, doctors, and volunteers, “you could just see people’s shoulders relax.” A simple hand on a shoulder during a consult would go a long way to bring comfort to families.
“I saw all these measure that brought comfort and a home-like atmosphere to their care.”
One memory stands out for Carol-Ann. A family came on to the unit, terrified for the death of their father. Within 24 hours, experiencing the care of doctors, nurses, and volunteers, children were skipping down the hallway. There was time for his wife to make a cup of tea.
“They were gaining back the opportunity to be family, a spouse, partner or parent instead of a caregiver,” says Carol-Ann. As she reflects on her time with Victoria Hospice, Carol-Ann emphasizes how much the experience has meant to her. It’s given her the chance to help support families through the loss of a loved one. She says she’s lived long enough to know that care and kindness go a long way in support of those who are losing a loved one.
“I’ll be forever grateful for the opportunity to be a volunteer at Hospice,” she says. It’s why today, because of volunteering, she has the ability to “go out in the community and tell people how wonderful and fortunate we are to have it.”