Volunteers ensure No One Dies Alone


An international programme has been rolled out to Rotorua.

A volunteer-led programme to ensure no one dies alone has been launched in Rotorua Hospital.

No One Dies Alone is an international programme aimed at providing a caring and compassionate presence and witness for patients who, for various reasons, may not have any other support.

It means that any patient who is without support will have a volunteer beside them. 

This programme is in place in a number of aged residental care facilities but Rotorua Hospital is the first public hospital to offer the service in New Zealand.

When a call was made for volunteers 11 people quickly put their hand up.

They have received training and are now available on a roster basis.

“We were blown away by the numbers who came forward, they’re a real mix of people,” said Dr Denise Aitken.

“Our nurses in our acute wards are very busy and there’s distress about not being able to be with people at this stage of their lives if they’ve no family.”

If there’s a patient on your ward that is dying and has no family support a volunteer can be arranged through the Clinical Nurse Manager.

The backgrounds of the volunteers are varied but all have experience being with the dying whether personally, on their local marae, or in their work in palliative care.

Some are retired nurses and healthcare professionals, others work in the hospital currently, including from the Rotorua Hospital Chaplaincy.

Three are members of Te Atawhai Aroha Compassionate Communities Rotorua Trust, which seeks to empower all to know what to do and how to be around the dying and their whanau, before and after death. 

"It's such a profound time in people's lives when they die, it's really important to have someone with you," says Te Atawhai Aroha volunteer Sarah Dewes.

"I've had some amazing experiences being with family members while they are dying.

"Being witness, not necessarily doing anything but being present in a way that can offer comfort and companionship at that time with respect is, to me, something very human we can do."

No One Dies Alone volunteers Lynette David and Sarah Dewes

Another volunteer learned about this initiative from the Rotorua Hospital intranet and put her hand up straight away.

"I believe this should be in every hospital and rest home in New Zealand," says volunteer Lynette David.

"I also volunteer in the hospital and I've seen how many people are patients who have no family.

"I think we all deserve to have people around us and to help us through that death period."

These volunteers are also a way to relieve staff, freeing them up to be with other patients.

Wh`ānau who need a break from sitting with the dying may also call on this service.