Man’s story of loneliness spurs compassionate calls to action
DYING man’s expression of loneliness and his call to action for others like him appear to have already had an impact beyond his own story. Saturday’s column about Cheppudira Gopalkrishna, the terminally ill 87-year-old former biology and chemistry teacher, inspired several readers to respond, including one who answered a question I raised about how we can help. Pauline Johnson pointed my way and yours to a registered charitable organization called Palliative Manitoba and a link to their website.
“If you are becoming interested in spending time with those nearing the end of their lives, you may want to consider taking this course,” she wrote. “It is a wonderful, profound experience.”
The “compassionate care course” is offered over eight weeks, on Wednesday evenings, in the spring and fall.
“It originated solely as a training course for Palliative Care Manitoba volunteers,” the website says, “but in 1990 began being used as a training vehicle by other organizations.
“It is also open to the general population as a selfinterest course when space is available.”
The organization’s volunteer visiting services have been around for 30 years and at the top of its list of stated goals is to “help lessen the feelings of loneliness.”
As a volunteer, it’s a four-hour, once-a-week companionship commitment to be there to help, by listening to both the person and the family.
It could be in a home, hospice or in palliative care units like the ones at Riverview Health Centre or St. Boniface Hospital. But being involved can go beyond just sitting beside someone. You might be assisting with shopping and running errands to give regular caregivers a break, or maybe helping write cards and recording life stories.
That sounds like something I might be able to do. How about you?
Johnson added something else to her helpful lead on Palliative Manitoba.
“Also, we can always use more volunteers at Jocelyn House.”
Now you know.
You should also know that those kinds of volunteer services are also available at Misericordia Health Centre, where Cheppudira Gopalkrishna currently resides, which suggests that loneliness doesn’t necessarily mean one is alone; that there aren’t companions
Aat the beside.
Anyway, another reader responded to the column with more helpful information.
And not just helpful for people.
Jean A. Paterson wrote that Nov. 5 has been designated as a day to reach out to seniors. I couldn’t find that on any website. No matter, it’s a good idea for any day of the year, and with that in mind, Paterson said there is an organization in Nova Scotia called Elder Dog that sends volunteers to help seniors who can’t walk their dogs anymore. “The goal is to put together people who enjoy dogwalking with seniors unable to walk their dogs,” Paterson wrote. “The group also tries to find trustworthy foster homes for pets when a senior is temporarily in hospital, or if a senior has to give up a pet. The pet itself may be elderly.”
So I checked with the Winnipeg Humane Society to see if we have an Elder Dog program here, or anything like it.
“It’s a great idea for a program to benefit seniors with pets,” the humane society’s Kyle Jahns responded. “However, we do not have Elder Dog or any similar program available in Manitoba.”
That sounds like a project the humane society or some other group should get going on.
Meanwhile, there’s something else that I should have mentioned about another Palliative Manitoba program: bereavement services, including for children whose parents have died.
That reminded me of parents who have lost children, and one set of parents and one child in particular. Earlier this month I chanced to run into Linden Woods neighbour Cindy Smith.
Eight years ago I wrote about Cindy and Doug Smith’s eight-year-old son Brandon, who had been born with a rare inherited neurological disorder with no known cure. On Nov. 1, 2008, Brandon died at home, in his mother’s arms.
And then last year, on Nov. 1, Cindy came up with an idea to celebrate Brandon’s memory in a way that went beyond family and friends.
“We spread a few random acts of kindness that day.” They bought coffee for strangers at Tim Hortons and Starbucks. They also purchased a plant from a florist and handed it to a person walking her dog on Waverley Street.
And this year, on Wednesday, friends of the family have asked if they can help Cindy, Doug and their now-18-year-old daughter Hayley pay it forward again. Except this year, Cindy decided to call what they’re doing “Brandon Acts of Kindness.”
Sounds like something we could all do that day in Brandon’s memory.
Or on any other day for someone whose life and spirit you want to celebrate.
The Smith family will take part in ‘Brandon Acts of Kindness’ in memory of Brandon, seen here in 2009.