By Nick Walling, Digital Marketing Officer, CHPCA
Eight years ago, Angela McBride’s mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the last seven and half weeks of her life at a palliative care facility in Winnipeg. Angela would visit her mother frequently there, and it was during these visits that she came to truly understand the value of companionship at end-of-life.
“We’re a very close family and we visited Mom often,” reminisces Angela. “But I noticed that the man across the hall from my mom was largely alone – and it made me think about how Mom was blessed to have all of us as a family rallying around her. This man didn’t really have that.”
Angela’s mother died that July, and by autumn Angela had begun volunteering as an end-of-life visitor in Palliative Manitoba’s volunteer visiting program, where she’s been involved for seven years. After 12 weeks of training, the program matches volunteers with a client in need of support and companionship. As a visitor, Angela meets with her match once a week, most often in the client’s home and makes connections and creates memories that will last a lifetime.
“One of my matches was in her 90s and we were together for about 14 months – months that ended up being very precious to me,” remembers Angela. “I would bundle her in my car, and we’d go out for coffee, go shopping, visit gardens – whatever we could do to get out of her apartment for a little while.”
Often, the role of volunteer visitor ends when the client is placed in hospice, however sometimes the connection between volunteer and client extends beyond the formal relationship and runs much deeper.
“The family of this particular client asked me to stay and be a part of her care team. Of course, I obliged,” says Angela. “One of her sons, who lived far away at the time, pulled me aside one day and said to me: ‘Thank you for loving my mom’. And I thought that was so gracious of him, to let me be there for his mother and thank me in that way. It was truly a gift to get to walk alongside someone like her.”
In addition to volunteering as an end-of-life visitor, Angela participates in planning and evaluation committees and even takes shifts at Palliative Manitoba’s memory tree fundraiser every Christmas.
“We set up a huge tree at a Winnipeg mall and people stop by to write a message to someone (or something) they are grieving on a card and then place the card on the tree,” says Angela. “I end up having so many touching conversations with the folks that stop by. The stories, the people . . . it’s remarkable.”
And every step of the way, Palliative Manitoba is there to support its dedicated team of volunteers.
“The Palliative Manitoba volunteer coordinators do an amazing job – they’re truly miracle workers,” says Angela. “The ongoing training initiatives are great and I always feel supported. I’m always amazed at the capacity to do what we do with the resources that we have available.”
To learn more about Palliative Manitoba, visit: https://palliativemanitoba.ca/