The prospect of a lonely death is a real one for many aged care residents. Whether it’s due to distance or family breakdown, some residents only have our staff by their side when they pass away.

In December 2019 Amana Living began recruiting for a new type of volunteer role called the No One Dies Alone Companion (NODAC). These volunteers form relationships with residents who are isolated, and they provide comfort and companionship to the resident at the end of their life.

The project was modelled on the No One Dies Alone program founded at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Oregon, USA, in 2001. A similar program has been successfully implemented at the Busselton Hospice and it was brought to our attention by Elizabeth Mistry, a registered nurse with Amana Living.

Renee Mountford was one of the first people to volunteer for the program. 

Renee is a recently retired, registered nurse who was looking for something meaningful in her life. She wanted something interesting, challenging and an opportunity to make a difference.

Renee applied for the role and started volunteering at Lady McCusker Home in Duncraig after completing her training with Amana Living. Renee visits Lady McCusker every Wednesday and spends time getting to know the residents, and sharing her life with them.   

One of the ladies Renee visited regularly was the second person in the programme to pass away. Renee was part of the team to hold a vigil for the resident and was with her when she died.

According to Renee, it was a peaceful process and much nicer than what she has experienced in hospital. There was music playing softly because the resident loved music, a Himalayan salt lamp and candle.

The resident was calm and slept through the night. She opened her eyes at 7am and looked at the window. Renee opened the curtains so she could see the new day was starting, and the resident passed away within minutes.

NODAC volunteers provide vital reassurance, comfort and support to a person in their final moments. Volunteers read and talk to the residents, gently touching their face and hands.

Renee encourages anyone considering becoming a NODAC volunteer to give it try.

“It is such a privilege to be a NODAC volunteer; the role is worthwhile, and you get so much in return. It can be challenging but ultimately it’s about spending time with a person, talking to them, and enriching their life,” Renee said.

The NODAC program will now be expanded across all Amana Living’s residential care centres thanks to funding from the Amana Living Foundation. The program is an important part of Amana Living’s palliative care and chaplaincy services and it’s fantastic that it will be available at all our care centres from 2021.

Learn more about Volunteering at Amana Living.