Shelagh Bell is a youthful 84 year old, who has a special connection with the Saanich Peninsula Hospital. Karen Morgan, Executive Director for the care facility says Shelagh, as a volunteer, manages a unique project at the hospital that supports people who have lost a loved one, in either the hospital’s Palliative Care Unit or the Extended Care Wards. “She takes her job so seriously that one of the social workers has taken to calling her “Trouble” – entirely in jest,” says Karen.
“In 1992, I expressed an interest to my husband of 48 years about helping out at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital,” says Shelagh. He encouraged her to join, which she did that same year, as a volunteer for the Hospital Auxiliary.
“My first job was taking the library cart around to the Extended and Acute Care wards,” she says. The library cart service allowed Shelagh to make “wonderful contacts” with patients and residents in the hospital. Unfortunately, the library cart program is no longer in service because of the potential risk of infection with multi-use books.
Shelagh has been a volunteer, Auxiliary Member, Past President of the Auxiliary, and Board Member of the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation. “She gets intensely involved in anything she does, and brings a wonderful can-do attitude to any project she undertakes,” says Karen, adding, “Shelagh has been volunteering so long here that she is very ‘well-connected’ at the hospital and is truly a leader.”
Shelagh currently holds two volunteer positions: one in the Auxiliary and Foundation hospital gift shop where she has the opportunity to greet visitors and have conversations with patients; and the other in the hospital office.
“When there is a death on the unit, I start an information file showing next of kin, contact numbers and mailing address,” says Shelagh. “I then address the card and leave it on the unit for staff and volunteers to sign.” She says primarily her job in the office is organizing files and arranging for cards to be sent.
“I have always been a people person who loves to watch and listen to people, so perhaps that was why I fit right into the hospital atmosphere,” she says. “I still attend monthly hospital meetings.”
Karen says Shelagh is both professional and fun loving.
“She would finish every auxiliary meeting with a joke, and she is still regularly called on to end their meetings with a laugh,” says Karen.
“I retired from the Foundation Board after nine years to make room for new ideas,” says Shelagh, “and I’m still connected to the Foundation through the Bereavement Program.” Shelagh says she stopped working shifts on the Palliative Unit when she became involved in the Bereavement job. “I still visit the Palliative Unit twice a week.”
Shelagh took on the Bereavement Program when she recognized the importance of continued contact with family members after the loss of a loved one. It was through her own experience of support from her friends at the hospital when her husband died at SPH that Shelagh realized how much staying connected helped her with the healing process.
“I love the SPH, our community hospital,” says Shelagh. “It’s where you can get to know the staff and where, as a patient, you are a person, not just a number.” She says she continues her volunteer work because it fills a need to be needed.
“I like to think that it keeps me young, although, when I look in the mirror that is hard to believe.”
“She [Shelagh] is the very model of a senior supporting and caring for others, and is a much-loved member of our hospital community,” says Karen. “We’re so happy to have her smiling face around and truly appreciate the work she does in support of the hospital.”
For more information about charitable donations to The Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation, visit www.sphf.ca or call 250-652-7531. For volunteer information, email Chris Foster, Manager of Volunteer Resources at: email@example.com
SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE MAY 2012