After 17 months 73-year-old resident Beverly and 35-year-old volunteer Melissa have finally had a chance to meet face to face.

Resident and a volunteer at Boyne Russell House
Bev and Melissa, a volunteer for the RMH, meet at Boyne Russell House

In a bid to keep our residents safe through the COVID-19 pandemic the Royal Melbourne Hospital public aged care sites have followed strict visitor protocols for the last two years.

This allowed the RMH to keep its aged care residents safe, with no COVID outbreaks facing our facilities throughout the peak of the pandemic. Unfortunately this also meant our residents were not able to enjoy their usual visits from friends and family. To help keep our residents connected to the community the RMH’s Volunteer service team began doing virtual video catch ups.

Over the past 18 months Bev, who lives at Boyne Russell House and our volunteer Melissa have formed a virtual friendship, catching up weekly and bonding over their shared love of knitting.

Now that Boyne Russell House is able to safely open to visitors Bev and Melissa have finally met face-to-face for the first time.

"It's lovely to meet her after so much time online. I saw her photo on the screen but it's not the same” Bev said.

Melissa was also thrilled to see Bev in person after so many virtual catch ups. “It's been so exciting to meet her in-person. We've been chatting online for about 17 months, but to have that in-person connection this morning has been really special" Melissa said.

The RMH Volunteer coordinator Keisha Jayasekera said the program has been a huge success.

“We’ve been able to support a number of residents have meaningful conversations with our volunteers, giving them an opportunity to engage with the community and share their stories and interests, which was particularly important during the strict lockdowns,” Keisha said.

Boyne Russell House Nurse Unit Manager Val Lambevska, also found the residents really enjoyed the program, giving them something special to look forward to every week.

“While we couldn’t have visitors it meant a lot to our residents to have a volunteer to catch up with during the week, to share stories and interests with, we definitely noticed it made them feel more connected,” Val said.

Mobile Stroke Unit with Ambulance Victoria paramedic and the RMH Stroke team
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