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Please hold my hand

Volunteers to hold the hands of those who are dying.

Photo of Zoe Austin-Crowe
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

A quote in a qualitative research report still haunts me today: "Won't someone hold my hand?". As staffing is being reduced, the complexity and acuity of nursing home residents is increasing. With one trained nurse to 100 residents there is barely enough time to manage the drug rounds. The personal touch and connection that is so vital to a person who is dying has often disappeared. Volunteers could be provided with training and support to sit with a person during their final dying hours.

Imagine dying alone.

People in nursing homes have significant care needs that keeps the caring staff very busy; personal hygiene, meals, medications, managing difficult behaviours, wound management etc. Unfortunately sometimes these staff just don't have time for the personal touch for a person who is dying. Residents of nursing homes can face the very real prospect of dying alone.

This is a very simple, low-budget idea. Volunteers (provided with support and training) could sit with people who are dying and hold their hand, talk with them or just sit with them. This would provide vital connection, support, touch and companionship during the final page in a person's life.

A key challenge would be how to scale up the idea so that it is available to many? Another would be to consider how the initiative can be sustained once the initial limelight has moved on? This will be an important consideration in the design phase.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

I would look to engage with some people already volunteering in healthcare either in nursing homes or hospitals and ask them for feedback on the idea and assistance tailoring it.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

It would be great to have some assistance with the design to understand what sort of volunteer would be drawn to this role and what the training and support they may require would look like. It would also be useful to understand how this could be rolled out in a sustainable and scalable way.

Tell us about your work experience:

I work for a Department of Health implementing a statewide advance care planning strategy. This involves taking a strategic approach to engage with over 100 health services, oversee innovative projects and engage with the community to "have the conversation".

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Dawn Gross

I love your idea.  It is so simple and so important.  If you haven't already, check-out: NODA (No One Dies Alone). This may be a good place to begin so you do not need to re-invent the wheel.

Photo of Zoe Austin-Crowe

Thanks for sending this link. I wasn't aware of NODA and would certainly not want to re-invent the wheel. I would love to bring NODA to my community.