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We’re like a second family

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95 year-old Muriel is uplifted by her weekly visits to the local day hospice. Beryl, one of the volunteers, drives her there and she enjoys care, friendship and activities with other guests, provided by staff and volunteers, while her daughter Bev has a break.

Muriel

I’d just turned 95 when I first met Beryl eight months ago. She came to pick me up and take me to Anam Cara House here in Geelong, and we’ve been friends ever since.

I had an operation and I wasn’t well afterwards. The palliative care team suggested that I might like it here, so they contacted the manager. Tessa came out to see me, and she talked me into coming. I didn’t really want to come, but when I got here, I enjoyed it.

At the start I didn’t know anyone, or know what to do. I sat here and I thought, ‘I’m not coming back’.

I’m a homebody and I’m really shy, but they were all friendly and they all helped me. Nothing was a trouble to them. I found that I could talk to them. I’ve always been on my own, and I was never one to mix much, but I like the friends I’ve made here.

Beryl now picks me up every Thursday, brings me here, and takes me home afterwards. I look forward to it and I keep Thursdays free so that I can come here. They’ll do anything for me here. I was embarrassed at first, but now I just ask them and it’s done.

I’ve been learning things that I didn’t know before. We’ve coloured T-shirts with paint, potted plants and painted tiles, played different games and made music. I like all the games now, even though I can’t see. I have a volunteer beside me to help me, so it’s a joint effort! Of course, now I have all this stuff at home that I’ve made here.

I miss cooking and baking. I used to do things around the house but now I can’t help at all. My daughter Bev looks after me. She does all the shopping and cooking, even though she’s not well. When Beryl brings me here, Bev gets a bit of a break and can go out for an hour or two. I talk to Bev about what’s going to happen when I go. We talk about her future when I’m gone.

I had an operation and the doctors thought I’d gone. I had kidney problems and they took a kidney out, and the one left isn’t working properly. When I went back to see the doctor, he told me I had three days, three weeks, or three months to live. Well, that was nearly three years ago.

I’ve learnt to look on the bright side all the time from Beryl. It is good here. It took a while to get to know all the staff and volunteers but now I know them all. It’s like a second home for me. They’re all very special.

Beryl

I look forward to Thursdays when I take Muriel to Anam Cara House, Geelong. I always arrive a bit early so that I can have a bit of a chat with Muriel and her daughter Bev before we leave. We mostly talk about what has happened during the week. It’s been very easy to walk into Muriel’s house, sit down at the kitchen table and talk. We’ve got a very comfortable relationship.

Often when I get to her house, Muriel is not feeling well and she does not really feel like leaving the house. After we talk for a while she lightens up and decides to come with me. She is always in good spirits when we come home. But mostly she’s pretty low. She puts up with a lot; she doesn’t get much sleep and it’s a big struggle. It’s a struggle for her, and it’s tough for her daughter.

When Muriel arrives here at Anam Cara House for day respite, she doesn’t need me to be sitting with her all the time. She’s beautifully independent. I just keep my eye on her from a distance. All the guests share all the volunteers and staff here, and the same volunteers come each week, which is easier for someone like Muriel who is visually impaired.

I’ve always been interested in people. I am a retired funeral director and grief counsellor. I liked the concept of this hospice, and I knew I wanted this to be part of my week when I retired four years ago. If I came here and it wasn’t right with me, I would not have stayed. It’s been good. This has become a family.

I’ve always been a listener, but I also like a bit of fun and interaction with people, which is what happens here. I like the way that if we’re sitting together Muriel will nudge me if something’s funny, or not right. You wouldn’t do that if you weren’t comfortable with someone. I don’t patronize Muriel. I treat her as an equal.

From Muriel, I have learnt acceptance. Muriel accepts she is blind and the fact that she can’t do anything about it so there is no point in grizzling. I’ve learnt not to take my eyesight for granted. There are lots of things I’ve learnt from this lady.

I keep coming to day hospice because we’re all a family. When one of the family members is away we miss them. We all feel really valued. It’s good for our wellbeing; good for our souls.

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