by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — A little container of nail polish leads to a whole lot
of love.
In a room at the Mercy Hospice, 60-year-old Janet Shelley was having
her nails painted in dark red while a group merrily sung Da Do
Ron Ron to the accompaniment of a ukelele. Mrs Shelley is a dialysis
patient, having suffered from kidney failure.

Painting nails for the Mercy Hospice Opening Doors programme.

“I’ve been coming about a month now. I had a visit from a
volunteer and she told me about it. I love it. It’s so different from everything else that I do for the rest of week. The dialysis and things like that,” she said.
Before she came to the programme, Mrs Shelley said she stayed home all week and felt isolated. “I was a bit shy the first time I came. Just socialising with different people and different company, I find it quite uplifting for the rest of the week. It gives me that extra energy to do what I need to do,” she said.
Nail polishing is a small but important part of the Opening Doors programme of Mercy Hospice.
Opening Doors coordinator Viv James explained that the significance of this little bit of service lies in what it leads to.
“Through the use of nail polishing and hair dressing, we set up
a very safe environment where people feel pampered and loved.
It often leads to more intense stuff. People end up talking about things that matter — their family, how they deal with dying, how they deal with depression. It leads to a very holistic programme,” says Ms James.
Mrs Shelley’s nail therapist said she does not invade her client’s
privacy. “They talk about what they want to talk about. I don’t pry. I listen,” she said.
The programme provides two days of therapeutic and social activities
that include arts and crafts, entertainment, hair dressing, nail
polishing and massage. It is available to all the patients in the care of Mercy Hospice.
Volunteer coordinator Julie Reid said friendships are formed and the value of those relationships cannot be underestimated.
“We are visited by health professionalsso they can observe the value of our psycho-social programmes. We are constantly evolving with new ideas and ways of doing things,” she said.
Mercy Hospice was founded by the Sisters of Mercy and, according
to the hospice website, remains true to its heritage. The facility was donated by the congregation for the development of hospice care.
Its community and inpatient services are free of charge but it needs to raise more than $2 million a year to maintain its vital services.
“It’s tangible, the energy in there,” said Ms Reid. “The people
are alive and happy. It’s all about sharing.”

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