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I volunteer for the Age UK Buckinghamshire Hospital Discharge Support Service currently. I am also training for the Welfare Benefits team.

I retired from the NHS in 2014, where I worked as a Community Mental Health Nurse.  Although it was the right time for me to retire, I knew that I would miss some aspects of the job, such as the social contact, meeting new people and the feeling of making a contribution. I made a plan that I would look for some voluntary work, as well as taking on some new leisure activities. Initially I volunteered for Thames Valley Victim Support, which ended when the contracts changed.

I had heard about Red Cross Home from Hospital service and applied to join them in 2018.  This suited me as I had been used to visiting people at home in my job. I remained with them until the service was transferred to Age UK Buckinghamshire last year.

I enjoy visiting people at home and the feeling that I am helping them to settle and regain independence after their hospital admission. As volunteers, we can help people with shopping, housework, companionship and signposting to other services.  We visit for up to six weeks. People are very grateful for the support they receive, and the only down side is having to say goodbye at the end of the six week period.

One story that sticks in my mind is an elderly man I visited who was completely isolated and very quiet and shy. I asked him about his interests when he was younger and he told me he liked bird watching and used to travel to Fairisle in the Shetlands where there is a bird observatory.  By coincidence, I had just read a novel which featured a murder at the same bird observatory!  We spent some time chatting about this. When the last visit ended, he handed me an envelope which contained photos he had taken of rare birds he had spotted. I said he should keep them as they were his memories, but he said he wanted me to have them. I can tell you I had a lump in my throat that day.

Another lady I saw had become reclusive and depressed. All she wanted from my visits was a cup of tea and a chat. After a few visits, she said that just having someone to talk to had lifted her mood to the extent that she had been able to return to her crochet group. 

These stories illustrate how a little bit of support can have a big impact on peoples lives.  We, as volunteers, also gain from meeting people and hearing about their lives, so it is a two way process.

We hope that you found this story inspiring. Become a Community Discharge Support volunteer like Valerie.