My experience as a Rose Volunteer

Eric Johnson is a Rose Volunteer at Watford General Hospital. The post was funded with a grant from Raise.

Here Eric shares his experiences about caring for those at the end of life. Dying Matters Awareness Week 2021 runs from 10 – 16 May and this year, the movement wants to focus on the importance of being in a good place to die. 

The coronavirus pandemic saw an unprecedented number of people pass away in hospitals without the comfort of having their loved ones with them. This Dying Matters Awareness Week (10-16 May) Eric Johnson shares his experiences of being a Rose Volunteer, offering company, comfort, and companionship during dying patients’ final hours. 

The project was funded with a grant from Raise.

In September 2018, I lost my beloved father at Watford General hospital. He had Parkinsons Disease and Dementia. It was a double blow – I had been losing him due to his illness for several years and in the lead up to his death, I cherished every last precious moment I had with him before he passed away. Up to that point, me and mum took turns to feed him lunch, we held his hand, we told him every day how much we loved him. 

Looking back during the pandemic, it broke my heart that so many families were robbed of the precious time with their loved ones. The Covid restrictions meant that families were robbed of their final moments – and with many end-of-life patients unable to receive visitors, many sadly died alone. 

I just couldn’t accept that. 

It didn’t take a lot of persuading for me to become a Rose Volunteer, in fact I was delighted to be the one of the first such volunteers for West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust to take part since the beginning of the pandemic.

Following in-depth, specialist training, I went to work to support the medical teams and families unable to be at their loved one’s bedside. The patients I see are often a few hours or days away from death. They’re usually unresponsive – but I know they can hear and feel. I talk to them about the news, the weather that day, I comb their hair, give mouth care and hold their hands. Some slip away in my presence, others pass during the night after my visit.

But importantly, they don’t die alone. 

It’s a privilege and an honour – and the role has not only expanded my horizons, but it’s also allowed my very personal experience to help others.

Eric Johnson

Rose volunteers are unique roles like no other. If you are interested in becoming an end of life care volunteer, please contact our coordinator Deborah (

Here’s what other Rose Volunteers have said about the role: 

You can learn more about volunteering at our hospitals at our Volunteering page.

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