Every year more than 3,000 people living with a progressive or life-limiting illness, and their families, are supported throughout East Suffolk, Great Yarmouth and Waveney by the free specialist palliative care provision of St Elizabeth Hospice.
More than 1,500 volunteers generously give their time to support St Elizabeth Hospice. These volunteers provide support in many ways, including working in one of its 31 retail shops, through to volunteering on the hospice inpatient unit and supporting the hospice administrative teams.
One St Elizabeth Hospice volunteer is Ann Muhs, who has been volunteering on the hospice’s Inpatient Unit since June 2020.
“I love working with people, it’s what I have always done throughout my working life, so to find a volunteering role which allows me to do this is really special,” said Ann.
“It’s just so rewarding to spend time with people, listening to them, talking with them and providing support wherever I can. The beauty of the hospice is that everyone has time for everyone.”
From Ipswich, Ann previously worked at Ipswich Hospital for 27 years across many departments, including stroke rehabilitation, X-ray, occupational therapy and community care. Through her work, Ann often worked alongside the St Elizabeth Hospice staff and was aware of the importance of the services provided by the independent Suffolk charity.
Following her retirement in 2019, Ann spent much of her time with her grandchildren but after the outbreak of the pandemic she was keen to provide support to people once more. After a friend contacted Ann to tell her the hospice was looking for volunteers, she jumped at the opportunity and has not looked back since.
She explained: “Through my work I knew of the hospice’s importance, while my nephew also received fantastic care from St Elizabeth Hospice before his death in 1994. To have the chance to support an organisation, which delivers such vital care in my community, is something I find very rewarding.
“All the patients are so dignified, it is humbling to see and to share a conversation and a laugh with them is so lovely and they are always so grateful. Knowing that giving a little of my time can make a difference to their day motivates me before every volunteering shift.”
Volunteering sees supporters donate any amount of time they are able to do so. As part of Ann’s role, she volunteers one morning a week while also covering extra shifts when she can. A typical day sees Ann helping with the preparation of breakfast for the patients, checking they are comfortable and taking the time to have conversations with them and their families.
“The hospice provides such a fantastic holistic service to all who under its care,” she said.
“To know my support gives the nurses more time to deliver their vital services to patients and their families is really important to me.
“The hospice is somewhere where patients feel safe, you can see the change in them after they arrive and begin to feel more comfortable, as they have everything they need here. While their families feel safe, knowing their loved one will not be scared or in pain; it is a very special place to be and a privilege to volunteer for.
“Many people have misconceptions of what a hospice will be. Even my daughters asked me ‘Are you sure you want to do that Mum, won’t you find it upsetting?’
“The truth is yes it can be upsetting but I look forward to every shift and there are far more times of happiness and laughter as the patients and their families are making the most of life when it matters most.
“I would encourage anyone to give volunteering a go, even if they want to spend a morning with me and see what is going on. People would be surprised by the warm and welcoming feeling of the hospice as they arrive. It is such a valuable way of spending your time and helping people in your local community and I have also made some fantastic friends in the process.”
To learn more about volunteering opportunities at St Elizabeth Hospice email email@example.com or visit www.stelizabethhospice.org.uk/support-us/support-us/volunteer-for-us/.