We would like to introduce you to one of our steadfast Hospice Neighbours and volunteer, Jan Jolley – who holds the record for the longest-standing support to a patient.

I have been a Hospice Neighbour to a person in the community for 5 years. He recently passed away, quite suddenly, and since his passing I have been taking the time to reflect on the privilege of this companionship. This is a story about an unlikely friendship. Two people who would most likely never have met or been friends if circumstances were any different. An irreplaceable friendship that I am so thankful to have gained.

I signed up to become a volunteer Hospice Neighbour through St Raphael’s in 2016. I wanted to offer support to someone who may have needed a bit of company and care in the community – I could never have imagined being matched with the particular person I had been matched with. We were very different people but it led to a wonderful friendship between us.

Ben (name altered for article) was a bit hardened by life and didn’t have the warmth of family friendships to ease his load. He was a real character though, and the more I got to know him, the more we understood each other and appreciated our time together. I always received a beaming smile from Ben whenever we met. A smile I will never forget. His illness had broken his spirit and he became quite isolated in the last 2 years of his life, particularly through the pandemic and lockdowns. Ben worked in construction all of his life, and his diagnosis was a real bombshell for him. He was a hard worker and very suddenly his life changed and he was no longer able to work. He lost his identity through this life change.

When the pandemic hit, the isolation had a massive knock-on effect for Ben, culminating into daily panic attacks, which effected his confidence all the more. When we first met, he used to sit on a garden bench outside, but this too eventually stopped. Ben hated phone calls so our face to face visits were hugely important. Thankfully, with permission, I was able to continue my visits while social  distancing. 

For the past 5 years, I visited Ben for around 2 hours every Monday. This routine was comforting for him, knowing he could trust in my visits and companionship. I would help where I could with a bit of housework and everyday things, picking up a few groceries or things he fancied. He loved a latte and burger with lots of onions! He didn’t enjoy anything too healthy!

When I first signed up to be a Neighbour with St Raphael’s, I was thinking about the good I could do for someone in my community who needed some support. I never realised how much it would give me in return, through such a wonderful friendship." 

If this has inspired you to consider becoming a Compassionate Neighbour or know someone who would benefit from the support of one, please visit our dedicated webpage by clicking the button below:

Compassionate Neighbours