Archive for Volunteers

As a Hospice Volunteer, I Did Nothing

I did nothing.

Well, that’s not correct since I finished several chapters in the book I was reading.

I did nothing.

That’s not correct either, since I quietly eased down the hallway on several occasions to listen to the patient’s breathing. I was cautioned that he had a soft voice and would always say he was fine or didn’t need anything, even if he wasn’t fine and had needs. Best to listen carefully!

I did nothing . . . unless being ready to answer the door before a visitor pressed the doorbell or prepared to answer the phone before it rang for too long count as something.

As a hospice volunteer on one of my first assignments, I mostly did that “nothing.” After my training (I’ll mention more about that in a bit), I was ready to help! The Volunteer Coordinator had called, asked if I could go over to a family and patient’s home for an hour or two later in the week. I said sure. My task? Make sure the patient wasn’t alone. While I sat in the living room, present and available if “anything” happened, the patient’s weary wife did her grocery shopping.

I read a book. I stood in the hallway and listened. And then I welcomed a patient’s wife home, helped bring the groceries in, and was gone. Before leaving, the wife profusely thanked me . . . for nothing.

The patient died a few weeks later. It was my only visit.

Maybe a month later, I received a request from the hospice’s Volunteer Coordinator: one of the other volunteers couldn’t do their regular weekly visit with a patient. This fella was by himself for a predictable time during the week and everyone—the family and hospice medical staff—didn’t want him to be alone. Get a volunteer!

I filled in. Read More →

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I’ll Think About Hospice Tomorrow!


The 1967 re-release poster…

“Oh, I can’t think about this now! I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow. But I must think about it. I must think about it. What is there to do? What is there that matters? Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all . . . tomorrow is another day,” Scarlett O’Hara famously said in a tearful close-up at the end of 1939’s Gone With the Wind.

Then the music swelled, and soon the final credits rolled as—viewers may forever assume—the always-scheming Scarlett schemed to rebuild Tara and perhaps get Rhett back and, well, keep living like there were 10,000 tomorrows.

Ah, all those tomorrows! Which finally leads me to ask: what’s your excuse for avoiding hospice? Though hospice has been a Medicare benefit since 1982, it remains a stereotypical “blissful” subject for many. Isn’t ignorance . . . bliss?

  1. I’m not that sick. Go bother someone near death’s door!
  2. I’ll be better soon. I’ve always bounced back before.
  3. No one’s giving me any dopey drugs. I have stuff to do!
  4. If you mention death, I’ll probably start to die! So be quiet!
  5. Hospice is for those dying from cancer . . . I don’t have cancer!

Read More →

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Take Advantage!

A friend’s grandmother recently entered hospice care. (Which, as usual, is only marginally accurate, though mostly true. It’s not his grandmother. And my friend may be a “she.”)

This is all you need to know: my friend is tired. Caring for a loved one is exhausting.

Respite...along a beach

Respite…along a beach

Soon after my friend’s grandmother entered hospice, he planned respite time because of being weary and worn down. What? Respite? What’s that? The Medicare benefits of hospice allow for an occasional “break” from caring for a loved one. At the hospice where I work, that means a patient could spend several days away from their home and stay at the modified suburban house we have for patients. With only six beds, space isn’t guaranteed. But if there’s a bed, a patient can be supported while the primary caregiver rests . . . gets respite. There are other options, such as briefly entering a skilled nursing facility or hospital. All hospices will have suggestions for respite time.

Too often caregivers resist help. Therefore, they don’t sleep. They eat poorly. They may never leave home. Respite provides a way to regain strength. Read More →

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