Home' Australian Ageing Agenda : AAA Spt-Oct 2013 Contents The latest in incontnence research and practce www.contnence.org.au
Conference on Incontnence
Crown Perth Conventon Centre, Perth, WA
23 - 26 October 2013
Program available: contnence.org.au
Decades of volunteering
JUNE BREMNER'S 30 years of volunteering in
community palliative care can be traced back
to the origins of the modern palliative care
movement in Western Australia in the 1970s.
An early encounter with Swiss-American
psychiatrist Dr Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a
pioneer in the study of death and dying and
the author of the five psychological stages of
death and grief, sparked an enduring interest
in caring for those at the end stages of life.
It was 1978 and Dr Kübler-Ross was
on tour in Australia for the first time, having
recently penned her groundbreaking book,
'On Death and Dying'.
Soon after Kübler-Ross' visit, Bremner
joined one of the state's first palliative care
groups called 'support for the dying and
their families', started by another palliative
care leader, Dr Joy Brann, among others.
The group later amalgamated with Silver
Chain and Bremner began her decades of
volunteer work as part of the community
Hospice Care Service.
Now at 81, Bremner says she has no
intention of stopping. "You'll never know
when you will need help yourself. Now that I
can give back, I will," she says.
Bremner, a former school secretary,
draws much satisfaction from supporting
people to make those final days, weeks
or months more meaningful. "People who
are in palliative care, they are all making
the most of the time they have left, and this
appealed to me," she says.
"We walk alongside people. We can't ever
say that we can walk in their shoes, although
in some instances, particularly the younger
clients, you wish you could be in their shoes
-- but you walk alongside them and perhaps
help lighten the load for a little bit of time.
"That's what volunteering is all about.
Giving of yourself to help other people and
you get so much back from it," she says.
In recognition of her decades of
community service, Bremner was recently
honoured with an award at the WA Aged
and Community Services excellence in
care awards, an acknowledgement she
describes as one of her proudest moments.
Bremner, who often sees up to four
clients a week and has taken on many
overnight stays, says palliative care can
also be a time of healing. "People say
'wasn't he lucky he had a quick death', but
with palliative care you have a chance to
mend bridges. It's part of why I do it."
During her visits to clients, Bremner says
she spends most of her time listening and
sharing stories, reminiscing and providing
comfort and companionship.
She'll often take clients to the beach
or for coffee, and she'll always make an
effort to tailor the activities or outings to
their personal interests. A recent client had
only been living in Perth for a short time, so
Bremner introduced him to a new part of
the city on every visit. "On one occasion we
were down at Koolie by the river and we saw
a pod of dolphins. He was just so excited. It
was a part of life that was new to him."
Bremner says it is inevitable that strong
relationships will form with some clients
and their families, some enduring for many
years. Although the time spent with clients
has shortened significantly over the years
as service criteria has changed in relation to
A GOOD DEATH
When asked to reflect on the meaning of
a good death, she says everybody wishes
a different death for themselves, some
would like to be surrounded by close
family and friends, and others would prefer
be on their own.
"I've known people who like to be out
amongst the bush when they die and they
will just walk off quietly and not come back.
That can be hard on the family. They'll say
'he didn't want us around' and I'm sure the
person who died wouldn't have been feeling
that way. His attitude would have been, 'I
don't want to be a burden to my family. I don't
want them to have to see me slip away'."
Gale Cargill, Support Officer of the
Volunteer Service at Silver Chain, says
June's compassion, years of experience
and dedication has earned her the respect
and high esteem of her peers, clients and
their families. n
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