Volunteering isn’t always about interaction or action.
Sometimes, our patients are not very responsive, participative or communicative.
They might be sleeping a lot or simply unconscious. Compassionate presence
volunteers have one simple but highly effective task to do with these
We can never know if patients are always aware of what’s going on
around them. But our compassionate presence volunteers are there so the
patient isn’t alone, so he or she might sense that someone who is
an advocate is nearby.
Volunteer Emily Miller explains:
"My patient was in her wheelchair and obviously very tired. Her eyes
kept closing and then she would open them briefly. Twice she apologized
for not being very talkative. I assured her it was not a problem, and
I would simply sit there quietly. This went on for about an hour with
me simply sitting there doing nothing in particular for the patient (other
than being a comforting presence). At the end of our visit, she opened
her eyes, smiled and said, ‘I like your silence.’"
Emily did not expect interaction. She did not need to be entertained by
the patient. She knew the patient enjoyed her visits, but on this visit,
the only need was to permit the patient to rest. Emily, like other compassionate
presence volunteers, understands the importance of being present.