It is a great privilege to be able to be there for both the person living with MND and their families and friends in the last part of their journey through life.
My name is Caroline Macdonald and I have been a visitor for the MND Association in North London since 2005. Our area of London covers the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Barnet, Enfield and a section of Haringey.
I was fortunate to be able to retire in my early fifties from a restaurant/bar, takeaway and catering business and after a year or so of enjoying my new found freedom I began to think that whilst I still had half a brain I would like to take up a volunteering role of some sort.
I have always thought that MND must be one of the toughest diagnoses to cope with so one day I came home and ‘Googled’ MND. Up came the MND Association and it was there that I saw the role of association visitor on the website. I had no wish to do anything that would tie me down to a specific timetable and I thought that the visitor role would fit round my life.
Now as a trained association visitor I support people living with MND and their families and friends. This is an extremely diverse role as every person with MND is so very different to the next in the way their illness affects them, their needs from a visitor and their personal circumstances. I have entered into a world that I have had no dealings with in my working life and am still finding I learn something new every day and I love it. My main role is to help people with MND work their way through the maze of health and social care professionals that march in a line through their door and take over their lives to help them on their journey with this devastating illness. As a visitor one can really make a difference to the life of a person living with MND by making their journey a little smoother for them by being there for them and fighting their corner for them.
I have found over the years that the MND Association is a highly-respected charity amongst health and social care professionals and I find with the weight of the Association behind me doors are opened and things get done more quickly than if there was no Association there. It has a high profile and is renowned for helping people living with MND in both a practical and financial way.
The raising of awareness of MND by the Association has meant that when we talk about MND today more people know about and have an understanding of the disease than in the past.
The visitor role offers such an incredibly diverse challenge which allows me to continue to use my administrative skills and knowledge of human nature acquired over years of dealing with the public. With the excellent training and support from the regional care development adviser and the backup of the Association one feels empowered to cope with most things that come your way. It is a really fantastic volunteering role and a hugely satisfying one too.
I am still constantly humbled by the very courageous people I meet who have been diagnosed with a devastating illness and how the laughter is still there amongst the tears. It is a great privilege to be able to be there for both the person living with MND and their families and friends in the last part of their journey through life.
The most memorable moments, which take place all the time, are when I walk into a room and the person with MND looks at me and their face breaks into a huge smile and their eyes tell me ‘I am so pleased you are here because you are here to fight for me and support me all the way’.