Bridging the void of loneliness

Paul, a Neringah Hospital palliative care patient, holding a tablet gifted by HammondCare FoundationPaul has metastatic cancer and is one of HammondCare’s community patients. Just recently, amid the COVID lockdown in Sydney, Paul revealed during discussions with social worker Emma, just how overwhelming his feelings of loneliness and isolation had become.

Emma knew that Paul had an interesting and compelling history. Born in Indonesia in 1937 when the country was a colony of the Netherlands and known as the Dutch East Indies, his mother had died when he was only five months old. During his formative years, he had experienced the Japanese occupation of his birthplace and had a personal war story to tell.

Emma asked Paul if he would like to share his story with one of the volunteers within the HammondCare Biography service. He jumped at the opportunity, explaining that several years ago he had written an autobiography in the form of a letter to his sister. Sadly, after she died, the letter was lost. Paul was delighted to have the opportunity to tell his story again and, at a time in his life when he needed assistance, HammondCare was honoured to help.

Paul was confirmed as an excellent candidate for the Biography program, however, without access to a tablet or the internet, participation was looking unlikely.

Thanks to HammondCare Foundation’s Dreams Project, a tablet was purchased for Paul to borrow for use at home – enabling face-to-face connection during isolation and an opportunity to complete his biography.

Shortly after arrangements were set in place to commence the biography, Paul was admitted to Neringah Hospital. After a little bit of shuffling and tweaking of arrangements, and with Emma on-hand to help set up the tablet for Paul and connect him with his biographer, they were off and running.

At the end of his first interview, Paul turned to Emma with his big smile and said, “That was beautiful!”.

Emma said that this simple gesture of facilitating social connection and interaction to ease Paul’s feelings of isolation and loneliness was wonderful.

“Through the combined efforts of the Dreams Project and the Volunteer Biography Service, being able to help Paul reignite his sense of self is remarkable – and a wonderful example of HammondCare’s Mission In Action.”

In between interviews with his biographer, Paul has access to the tablet to facilitate communication and connection with family and friends. Staff at Neringah are happy to help while he learns the ropes and becomes familiar navigating the tablet and surfing the internet.

Thanks to the tablet, Paul's having weekly biography sessions and enjoying facetime that volunteers have arranged to help keep him feeling connected and less lonely during these difficult times.

An avid dog lover – who greatly misses his recently departed canine companion – Paul’s also just discovered the joy of dog videos on YouTube, which are providing many hours of distraction and great delight!

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