The Importance Of Being Present
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 individuals: BE PRESENT.
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.