A CHARITY is seeking more kindly neighbours to support people at the end of their lives in rural West Devon.

Brentor and Moor Compassionate Neighbours helps people with life-limiting conditions or approaching the end of their lives by providing volunteers to enable them to live as well as they can in their own homes.

Founder Mark Alderson also said the charity has the capacity to look after more people. He said the charity bridges the gap in care between social care and health professionals and can act as an early warning system of issues that community carers and medical staff might need to address.

The charity even has a therapy dog called Lily who prefers to sit on clients’ laps and keep them company.

Mark, a retired occupational therapist in palliative (end of life) care, said: ‘I set this up knowing there was a need to bridge the gap in care needs, where very busy community care and health professionals just do not have the time to spend the time that’s needed to notice the changes which indicate extra help is needed to keep people living at home.

‘It can be the washing up mounting up in the kitchen or the dog not having been fed for some time. We have time as compassionate neighbours to notice. These small clues can incrementally cause a major problem if not addressed early. Volunteers report back to our co-ordinator and then concerns fed to the district nurse, GP or social worker.

Debbie Alderson, a compassionate neighbour, said: ‘I really love my role helping keep people company in their own homes and at the same time learning all about them and their families and their lives. We also liaise closely with their relatives. This is especially important if there are communcation issues with residents.’

Debbie, a retired health care assistant (HCA), has four clients. One has problems hearing and remembering: ‘I sometimes take Lily our dog to hospitals and she is a very calming influence on my clients. They often just need to have her on their laps because she is small, a schnauzer/yorkie cross. Sometimes I bring Lily to their homes and leave them together and carry out an errand for them and return — they’re usually both happy together and I’m not missed, which is brilliant.

‘Lily is company for my oldest client and sits on her lap and alerts her to people passing by outside and they communicate. It’s stimulating for her. To be honest, my client remembers visits by Lily, but forgets me.’

Debbie has experience with end-of-life patients as an HCA: ‘I’ve helped support families of people who have died and held people in my arms as they’ve died. It is traumatic, but I’ve learned to get strength from the comfort I can give everyone.’

Potential volunteers can contact [email protected] or 07776373140.