They accompany people at the end of life

Volunteering with people with serious or progressive illness is not an innocuous decision. Aliki, Martine, Mylène, Guy and Françoise made this choice. They witness.

Pauline Machard

When she was asked to become an accompanying volunteer, Martine spontaneously exclaimed "Certainly not! ". "For me, it was death ..." she justifies herself, looking contrite. And then she thought about it. The memory of her father, "dead alone", finally convinced her. "It was too sad ..."

I felt very early this need to accompany

Like Martine, the majority of the volunteers were involved because they were affected by the death of a loved one. By the solitude of their last moments. Often, it's an old idea. "I had in mind an image of me next to a patient, and it seemed right to me. Everyone should be accompanied, "says Aliki, deeply marked by the deaths of a friend and her mother. Same thing for Francoise, who had been hiding, little one, the death of her grandmother: "It continued me during all my childhood. I felt very early this need to accompany, and I prepared myself for years ".

So once the time of retirement arrived, they knocked on the door of ASP91, an association that works to develop palliative care in Essonne. The association has 25 accompanying volunteers, dispatched to four establishments in the department. Their objective? Accompany patients who are at the end of their life or who are going through a critical phase of a serious illness, and their loved ones.

But to become a companion, you have to go through a rigorous selection: after completing a form, the aspiring volunteer submits to a first interview with members of the association (he is evaluated on his experience of breaks, his ability to work in a team, his relationship to death ...), then to a second with a psychologist. He then received training in two phases: an initial training (two days in Paris, at the headquarters of the association), and a two-month tutoring, during which he joined a team. In the end, Aliki, Martine, Guy and Françoise will be assigned to the palliative care unit at the Bligny medical center in Briis-sous-Forges. Mylène, at the gerontology center La Martinière, in Saclay.

The difficulty is to remain neutral

Half a day a week, they go from room to room comforting the sick and their entourage. But in La Martinière, unlike the palliative care unit of the Bligny hospital, the number of patients is high and the lack of staff screaming. "It is therefore the doctors who indicate to the volunteers the patients to see, according to specific criteria," explains Mylène: palliative care, change of state, social isolation ".

Entering the intimacy of the patient and his family is never easy. You have to deal with every situation. Every patient, every family, comes with its history, its fears ... "Everything is proposed, nothing is imposed", jokes Guy, president of ASP91, taking the slogan of Club Med. Accompanying persons must judge whether they are welcome or not. If the person feels the need to confide. Or if she just needs a silent presence. Sometimes, the age of the volunteer counts, as Mylène explains: one of the patients did not indulge her, because she "reminded her too much of her daughter". "Above all, the difficulty is to remain neutral, not to give our opinion" commented Guy, who began by accompanying children at the Gustave Roussy Institute.

"It's hard to find an adjective to characterize what you do," notes Francoise. It's both 'rich' and 'poor' because our mission is just to be there with people. " the patient, communicating or not, his family, but also the staff. Their presence, though discreet, is important. They realize that when a patient gently squeezes their hand, that the families express their gratitude for offering them coffee, a moment to talk about their lives, about their family's lives. Because the well-being of patients is played - too - on all these little things.

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