This week we’re supporting Mental Health Awareness week, recently acts of kindness have bought many communities together and in particular for vulnerable people who need it most. Sara Shergill, Senior Radiographer from our centre at London Cromwell Hospital volunteered to support vulnerable people during Covid-19, we’re really proud of Sara so thought we’d hear from Sara to share her experiences…
“I set out to be an extra pair of hands, but I think my ears became more useful!”
What has your role been as a volunteer?
I started the role as an ‘NHS Volunteer Responder’ for the Royal Voluntary Service in early April, and shortly after, my application to act as voluntary ‘Clinical Support Worker’ at NHS Nightingale Hospital London was also accepted. Thankfully, due to the low number of cases in the Nightingale Hospital, most of my volunteer duties were community-based. The support involved calling vulnerable adults who were self-isolating, collecting and delivering shopping, prescriptions and essential items. Anyone who required assistance sent an alert to the NHS app which would trigger a response from a nearby responder.
How has this made a difference to the people you supported?
The relief and smiles when a delivery arrived at the door was hugely heart-warming. This may of been their only interaction for the day whilst they’re shielding in their homes adding feelings of isolation, frustration and loneliness.
Celebrations were cancelled on the 75th VE anniversary, instead veterans registered to chat with a volunteer, story telling and reminiscing of WW2 raised lots of emotions – this is when I felt the most gratitude of offering a small listening gesture and reminding people they were not alone.
I believe reassuring people that were feeling scared and apprehensive about the future made a big difference. One lovely gentleman said, ‘it is so nice to know I haven’t been forgotten’.
It has been a humbling experience to be able to talk to so many people that I would never have met and listen to stories that I would never have heard.
Have you had to make any changes due to isolation?
Yes, we all have different values, family structure, work pressures, environmental and financial differences that impact how we are handling the current situation. Empathy is really important at a time like this along with adjusting my expectations, and being easier on myself and others.
We are living in a time where self-isolation and social distancing have become the new normal, with a lot of uncertainty on what the future will hold.
With my face now hidden behind a mask when treating patients, I have been conscious of the need to elevate my tone of voice to encourage optimism and positivity, to eliminate any additional anxiety they might be experiencing without the use of a smile.
My Grandad told me that in WW2 you were lucky if you received a letter within one year if someone wrote to you. With that in mind, I think we are all quite fortunate to have many new ways to virtually communicate (and see) each other, whether that be Zoom dinner dates, movies nights, quiz’s or games nights.
I don’t miss public transport, and I have enjoyed being able to complete both personal and volunteering errands using my bike, enjoying the quieter and more peaceful streets of London.
Sara’s tips for a healthy, positive lifestyle
Remember to focus on the basics before setting huge goals and expectations for yourself.
- Make sure you get enough sleep
- Drink plenty of water
- Sunlight exposure
- Stop and appreciate the quiet moments
- Maintain a balanced diet during isolation – this is much harder now when working from home but set yourself challenges and make sure your plate is colourful!
- Differentiate between home working areas and relaxing space
- Try something new – I am a big advocate of the ‘Headspace’ app which GenesisCare offers to all employees
- Use what would have been your commute time to do something else – even a 10-minute stretch is a great way to engage your mind and body for the day ahead
- Take each day as it comes, be kind to yourself and mindful of others who may be feeling exactly as you do