Sue Ryder: How volunteering at Preston's state-of-the-art neurological care centre helps more than just the residents

“I’m learning so much by being here – about myself, about the clients and about Sue Ryder – andwho wouldn’t want to be part of such a great team?”
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Caroline volunteers at Sue Ryder’s Neurological Care Centre Lancashire in Fulwood two days a week and says she has always been drawn towards working with people.

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Now the specialist centre for people with brain injuries is looking for other people to volunteer their time, helping run games and quizzes, and get involved in massages, beauty and self-care, as well as gardening, playing football and outings.

Caroline at work volunteering at Sue RyderCaroline at work volunteering at Sue Ryder
Caroline at work volunteering at Sue Ryder

Caroline’s story

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Caroline was inspired to put herself forward two years ago when she found herself bedridden due to a minor head injury.

She said: “About 21 years ago I volunteered to work with stroke patients in support speech therapy and music therapy and I did that one day a week for about four years alongside my Magistrate work.

"Many years later I found myself at home, in bed following a minor head injury. Along with my hidden disability, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I was bedbound for quite a while just looking at the ceiling and during that time there were two things that I was quite adamant about.

Caroline says she gets as much out of volunteering as she givesCaroline says she gets as much out of volunteering as she gives
Caroline says she gets as much out of volunteering as she gives

"Once I get better I’m going to do some volunteering and I’m going to decorate this awful bedroom!”

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Caroline did the redecoration and now offers her free time two days per week at the centre's music therapy sessions, where she ensures that all clients take part and hear the songs and music they love.

She said: “Music can evoke memories and feelings, but best of all it just lifts your spirits. I’m really passionate about the music therapy here at Sue Ryder. I support Sarah the music therapist who runs the sessions. We have around 20 residents who come along now and she will welcome each one by name within a song so that everyone feels included.

“For those who have the manual dexterity we will give them a maraca or a tambourine and encourage them to join in, making music. There are even instruments for clients who only have use of their foot.

"Some residents may have difficulty communicating through speech but amazingly they can sometimes recall and sing lyrics, this is because music is stored differently in the brain to regular speech. Music can be joyful and uplifting, sometimes calming and soothing and I think that this is so beneficial for all of our clients. It might just be the highlight of their week.”

Complimentary therapy

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Caroline also offers complimentary treatments when she is at the centre.

“It’s about making the clients feel special,” she said. “Sometimes it’s something as simple as a hand massage. Obviously, we wear appropriate PPE but it’s important for the client to feel that’s it’s their time.

"They can chat if they wish or just completely relax and quietly enjoy the treatment. For our clients who are non-verbal, that soothing physical touch might well be a very warm and comforting experience for them.

"Alongside the great nursing care, these are moments that they deserve. We also have ladies who love to have their nails painted and there’s one client in particular who I know adores having her weekly facial.

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“I’m taking one client out this afternoon to the shops. She is a wheelchair user and having a bit of what she calls ‘normality’ is really significant to her well-being. What I like is that it’s not always about doing things for people here, it’s about helping them to help themselves where possible.”

A connection with people

Caroline, who has previously worked in various roles in business says she gets as much from her new role as she gives.

She said: “It’s lovely feeling that you have made a connection with people and seeing the clients raise a smile when you arrive for your day’s voluntary work – that is what makes me feel very valued. I’m not currently in paid employment so there’s definitely a little bit of self-worth attached to my volunteering.

"Now I find myself responsible for doing the Sue Ryder on-line training and turning up regularly at a set time, which gives me some positive structure to my life. For people who haven’t worked for some time, volunteering can be a wonderful self-affirming stepping stone.

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“I think volunteering is a bit like being a good neighbour, and this building is ‘home’ for many of our clients. For some, this building is their whole world, so what happens here is incredibly important.

“I never describe myself as ‘just a volunteer.’ I feel this role has its own valuable place within the vast Sue Ryder team. I like to use the analogy of a huge clock – I may only be a small cog but the little cogs turn the medium-sized cogs and they keep the larger cogs turning.

“I have never been in a working environment quite like this, where all of the staff have adopted an attitude towards helping each other every day and making each day the best it can be for all.”

"So many benefits”

Alyse Golofit, Volunteer Coordinator said: "There are so many benefits to volunteering, it's an opportunity to learn news skills, boost your confidence and make new friends, whilst giving something back to your local community."

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She added: “Our loyal volunteers are at the core of all that we do at Sue Ryder. Without their unwavering commitment, we simply wouldn’t be able to deliver the expert care that our clients rely on. By giving the gift of time, no matter if this is one hour or more, each contribution will help our clients thrive in their everyday lives, therapy sessions and social activities."

Call Sue Ryder on 01772 627374 or email: [email protected]