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Serbian palliative support volunteers: confident, skilled and determined

SCAA palliative support volunteers (L-R) Camila, Jordanka, Milka, Milica, Vida and Jasna

 

Confident, skilled and determined to do their best – the palliative support volunteer team of the Serbian Community Association of Australia (SCAA) have come through the pandemic stronger and more capable.

Already two years since it began, the palliative support program is making waves in the community. Marina Celebic, Manager, SCAA, sees the program filling a real need:

“We hear many positive stories and get excellent feedback from families. We’re delighted that the project has made a difference in the lives of many Serbian palliative care patients.

In 2019-2020, a total of thirteen palliative support volunteers received training in the Serbian language and successfully supported 30 members of the community receiving palliative care.

Volunteers acquire new skills to stay up-to-date

Initially, volunteers were unable to conduct face-to-face visits with palliative care patients during lockdown. They were assisted to use technology such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype to establish and keep regular contact with the people they were supporting. The telephone applications also helped SCAA keep the volunteers updated and informed.

Volunteers received information updates on:

  • How to look after yourself when volunteering
  • Mental care of self and of the recipient
  • Personal hygiene and how to reduce and stop the spread of COVID-19
  • How to support palliative care conversations about death and dying
  • Recognising deterioration in clients

In December 2020, after the restrictions were lifted, face-to-face supervision meetings with each volunteer were arranged.  Biljana Trickovic, Project Coordinator offered phone and then, face-to-face supervision, giving volunteers an opportunity to discuss their contact meetings, describe their findings and alert the Coordinator to any problems that may have arisen.

Critical need identified

At first, the COVID-19 restrictions had a significant impact on the project’s capacity to obtain more referrals. But lockdown also caused severe isolation issues in the community and the need for social support became critical. Requests for support in-language came in from community and aged care providers. New clients were also obtained by self-referral, through family and friends.

 We are confident that our extensive experience, presence in the Serbian community and contacts with service providers, will bring more referrals”, says Biljana.

Promoting palliative care in Serbian language on social media

SCAA promoted its activities to the Serbian community through an intensive marketing campaign on ethnic media, MIS TV. During October-November 2020, an advertisement was aired eight times a day. The project was also promoted using the MIS TV posts on YouTube and Facebook. MIS TV airs Australia-wide and it is expected that more than 7,000 people in Victoria and 25,000 nationwide have viewed the marketing campaign. Link:  Serbian Community of Australia (mistv.com.au)

Strong networking yields success

In the past six months, SCAA project staff approached a large number of residential aged care providers such as Fermont Lodge, Monash Health, Beta Home Care, Cumberland Aged Care, TLC Noble Manor, West Aged Care, West, Baptcare, Uniting Aged Care, James Baker House, Doutta Galla, Fairway Community Care, Point Cook Manor, Mercy Place, Manor Court, Clayton Rehabilitation Centre, Fronditha Anesi Age Care, Madina Manor, St. Paul Hostel for Elderly, Blue Cross Hilltop, Kingston Rehabilitation Centre,  Mecwacare and John Atchison Centre.

Through contact with these agencies and residential aged care facilities, SCAA was able to promote its work to aged care services, identify more palliative care patients, provide social support through volunteer visitors and coordinate volunteer placement.

Networking with palliative care providers

Marina and Biljana also developed networks with local palliative care and health care service providers, Palliative Care South East, Centre for Palliative Care, Alfred Health Carer Support, Calvary Health Care Bethlehem, the Older Persons Advocacy Network and ethnic organisations providing palliative services.

The successful outcome of this program is due in large part to Marina and Biljana’s commitment and determination to make every activity a reflection of their high standards.

Well done, SCAA!

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