No-one should ever face a life-limiting illness alone, which is why Birmingham St Mary’s set up ‘Support at Home’. A volunteer-led initiative, Support at Home offers friendly companionship and practical help in the comfort of people’s own homes.
Michael has been using the service for a few months now and is already surprised at the difference it is making. He and Ali – his Support at Home volunteer – have struck up a fantastic friendship, giving him the social support and extra help he needs.
The first time I met Ali, we got on like a house on fire. He’s a good, honest person who’s given me lots of support over the last few months – both practically and emotionally.
We first met after I was referred to Birmingham St Mary’s. I was diagnosed with cancer in 2016 and was told there was nothing they could do – it was incurable. That’s when the hospital put me in touch with the hospice.
The word ‘hospice’ had always frightened me. I always thought of it as a last resort, somewhere that once you went, you never came out again. Of course, I’ve come to realise that isn’t true at all. I can’t put into words how brilliant it is – it’s been such a big help and lets me live my life.
It was a nurse from the hospice – a lovely woman called Jane who cares for me at home – who suggested the Support at Home service. I live on my own and my friends are quite far away, so she asked if I’d like someone to come round for extra support. I said yes – when you’re on your own, it’s nice to know that somebody is coming round regularly to offer you company.
That’s when Ali started visiting me. He’s my Support at Home volunteer and helps me with things that have got to be done, such as replying to letters and attending GP visits. But he is also there to offer me a listening ear. Quite often we’ll just sit and talk. We talk about everything and anything – from how I’m coping with my illness to things that are happening in the world.
One of the things we love talking about is the past, or the ‘olden days’ as I like to call it. We both have a real interest in what Birmingham used to be like back in the day – Ali gets to learn something and I enjoy sharing stories and reminiscing over memories. Ali’s even been researching old pictures of the area I grew up in at the library. He once found an image of a pub I used to drink in and as I was looking at it, I suddenly thought ‘I know him’! It turned out to be an old friend in the picture – it really is a small world!
Ali has also been a big help in sorting out practical stuff for me. The other day, my computer froze and I didn’t know what to do. Thankfully though, when Ali came round, he was able to fix it. That’s the trouble when you live on your own – you don’t have that extra help with the little things. That’s why it’s so useful to have Ali come round – he really is golden and I’m lucky to have his support.
I think it takes a special kind of person to volunteer and Ali is just that. He’s been incredible over the past few months and without him, I really don’t know what I would do. I always look forward to his visits because when you live on your own, it’s comforting to know that someone is coming round soon for a chat. I’d recommend Support at Home to anyone – it’s absolutely brilliant and I just can’t get over how helpful it is.
Thank you Michael for sharing your story with us. Support at Home offers practical, social and emotional support to people, their families, loved ones and carers living with life-limiting illness.
The service is funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, Edward and Dorothy Cadbury Trust and William A Cadbury Charitable Trust. If you would like to find out more, take a read here.