‘I don’t usually go any further than my front room, but it’s so nice to have company and friendship’

Rural High Peak resident Keith was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012, and, after a fall at home in September 2018, he found out that the disease had advanced and spread to his hips.

Back at home after time in and out of hospitals, the former lorry driver was referred to Blythe House for support and friendship, which is when he met Dave.

Dave Jenner, from Grindleford, is a community volunteer with Blythe House, which sees him heading out to patient’s homes across the borough to spend time with them and offer support.

Keith said: ‘Dave comes round to my house every week; sometimes we just sit and chat, other times we might go on a walk or he’ll help with small jobs around the house. He’s a grand chap; a gentle giant with a lovely personality, and nothing is too much trouble. I don’t usually go any further than my front room, but it’s so nice to have company and friendship. On one of his visits, Dave mentioned that he needed to drop some rubbish off at the tip, and so we went together for a ride out in the car; it was great to get out of the house for a while.

‘My wife Lucy benefited from Blythe House services when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997. She was a very keen supporter of the hospice and always got involved in helping to organise or contribute towards events. Lucy died in 2008 and Blythe House was on hand to offer advice and support. If anyone in the family needed any help, Blythe House was the place to go.’

Dave retired in 2012 after a career in public health research and statistics. He explained: ‘Retirement has given me more time for music as I play in a band, reading, walking in the Peak District, working on the land as I look after a bit of woodland, and of course, volunteering!

‘I think palliative care and the work of hospices is very important and I’m glad that it is increasingly being recognised. I have witnessed friends and my late wife benefiting from marvellous end-of-life care. When I saw information about the community volunteer project at Blythe House in the local newspaper, it sounded just my thing.

‘I have visited a number of Blythe House Hospicecare patients and service users in their homes, mainly for companionship and conversation but also for practical help, such as shopping and getting to GP appointments.

‘Vicci and Julie, the project co-ordinators, give you plenty of support, encouragement and feedback. It’s a well-run effort. I enjoyed our training and enjoy our regular team meetings with fellow volunteers. It’s satisfying to feel that you have had some positive impact on someone’s day. People are interesting. All the patients that I’ve visited have interesting stories to tell and in each case I have enjoyed listening to them.’

Keith’s daughter, Karen added: ‘When Dad came out of hospital, we really needed to coordinate a care package, including organising for a commode and a proper hospital bed to be put downstairs, as well as a stair lift. Blythe House really helped with this organisation, we got straight answers from them. We received the same positive response when Mum was poorly too. Dad lives in such a rural place, he can’t get out on his own; it makes such a big and positive difference to me, knowing that Dad has got friends and is being taken care of, by people from a very trusted place.’