Sue Ryder: How volunteering at Preston’s state-of-the-art neuro-care center helps more than residents

Caroline volunteers at Sue Ryder’s Lancashire Neurological Care Center in Fulwood two days a week and says she has always been drawn to working with people.

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How the Sue Ryder Neurology Center in Preston is helping patients get their lives back

Now, the specialist center for people with brain injuries is looking for others to volunteer their time, help organize games and quizzes, and get involved in massage, beauty and personal care, as well as the gardening, football and going out.

Caroline volunteering at Sue Ryder

Caroline’s story

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

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

“Many years later I found myself at home in bed with a minor head injury. In addition to my hidden disability, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, I was bedridden for quite a while at look at the ceiling and meanwhile there were two things that I was pretty adamant about.

Caroline says she gets as much from volunteering as she gives

“Once I get better, I’ll volunteer and decorate this horrible room!”

Caroline has done the redecorating and now offers her free time two days a week to the center’s music therapy sessions, where she makes sure all clients participate and hear the songs and music they love.

She said: “Music can evoke memories and feelings, but more importantly, it only lifts the spirits. I’m really passionate about music therapy here at Sue Ryder. I support Sarah the music therapist who leads the sessions. We have about 20 residents coming now and she will greet everyone by name in a song so everyone feels included.

“For those with manual dexterity, we will give them a maraca or a tambourine and encourage them to participate, to make music. There are even instruments for customers who only use their foot.

“Some residents may have difficulty communicating through speech, but surprisingly they can sometimes remember and sing lyrics, this is because music is stored differently in the brain compared to normal speech. Music can be joyful and uplifting, sometimes soothing and soothing and I think that’s so beneficial for all of our clients, it just might be the highlight of their week.”

Complementary therapy

Caroline also offers free care when she is at the centre.

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

“They can chat if they wish or just relax completely and quietly enjoy the treatment. For our non-verbal clients, this soothing physical contact could well be a very warm and comforting experience for them.

“Besides the good nursing care, these are times they deserve. We also have women who love having their nails painted and there is one client in particular who I know loves having her weekly facial. .

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

A connection with people

Caroline, who has previously held various positions in the business world, says she gets as much out of her new role as she gives out.

She said: “It’s nice to feel you’ve made a connection with people and to see customers smiling when you arrive for your volunteer work for the day – that’s what makes me feel so valued. I don’t currently have a paid job, so there’s definitely a bit of self-esteem attached to my volunteering.

“Now I find myself responsible for taking Sue Ryder’s online training and showing up regularly at a set time, which gives me a positive structure in my life. For people who haven’t worked in a while , volunteering can be a wonderful springboard for self-affirmation.

“I think volunteering is like being a good neighbor, and this building is the ‘home’ of 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 think this role has its own valuable place within Sue Ryder’s vast team. I like to use the analogy of a huge clock – I may be just a small cog, but small cogs make medium-sized cogs turn and they make larger cogs turn.

“I’ve never been in a work environment like this where all staff have an attitude of helping each other every day and making every day the best it can be for everyone.”

“So many benefits”

Alyse Golofit, Volunteer Coordinator, said: “There are so many benefits to volunteering, it’s an opportunity to learn new skills, build your confidence and make new friends, all while giving back something to your local community.”

She added, “Our loyal volunteers are at the heart of everything we do at Sue Ryder. Without their unwavering commitment, we simply wouldn’t be able to provide the expert care our clients rely on. By donating time, whether it’s an hour or more, every contribution will help our clients thrive in their daily lives, therapy sessions, and social activities.”

About Antoine L. Cassell

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