Hospice officials say an hour of your time makes difference

Jun. 22, 2014 @ 07:19 AM

Imagine being unable to leave your bed or your home. It’s not your fault. You can’t help growing older or becoming sick. Every day is the same. Except when your hospice volunteer comes to visit. He or she makes you lunch, reads your favorite book and tells you about everything that is going on in the community. The hours he or she gives help you feel better, energetic and loved.

That's the difference that Brittany Bonn, volunteer coordinator for Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care Inc., says hospice volunteers can make.

Caldwell Hospice is looking for volunteers to help with a wide variety of tasks. Bonn said volunteers need to have a “positive attitude and generosity” and be “compassionate, dependable and a self-starter.” There are different levels of volunteering from interacting with patients to doing chores around the facilities. There is even a program for teenagers called “VoluTEENS,” which allows students to get involved along with a supervisor.

“We are blessed with a group of fantastic people who give their time and energy to our organization,” Bonn said. “We couldn’t ask for better. But, we could ask for more. We never have enough.”

Patty Williamson, who has been working with hospice for over 30 years and volunteers at least 6-8 hours a week, works directly with patients who still live in their homes. She has done everything from washing dishes to changing bedding to taking patients to the hospital. She said that although some people may find the work to be depressing or heartbreaking, she does not believe that at all.

“For me, it isn’t grim at all. People who work with hospice understand that it is the most life-sustaining thing around, because all we do is help people have the best possible time they can have with the least amount of pain, the least amount of worry, that we have them covered. We have their back in every circumstance,” she said.

Barbara Jones, who has volunteered with hospice for seven years after retiring as a teacher, agreed that the work is not difficult or too overwhelming.

“I have found my place here and have felt that has given me another focus in my life that I can love and enjoy as much as I did my teaching career,” Jones said.

She spends her volunteer hours reading, singing and doing everyday chores for patients. She also serves as an “11th-hour volunteer,” someone who goes to a patient who is thought to have less than 48 hours left to live.

“Sometimes, it’s a situation in which the patient does not have a family member, and sometimes it is especially comforting for the patient and the patient’s family to have someone there who can offer words of encouragement at a very sad time,” Jones said.

Williamson said that anyone who opens up their heart to volunteering at hospice would not regret it.

“I’ve learned so much from watching other people walk with someone who is near and dear to them and then survive them and go on,” Williamson said. “It’s everyone’s job to go on without the ones we love, but some of us do that really well. Not forgetting for one minute the person they’ve lost, but sewing up that hole as best as they can and seeing what they can do with the rest of their days.”

Contact Brittany Bonn to see how you can get involved with Caldwell Hospice and Palliative Care, Inc. Email Bonn at volunteercoordinator@caldwellhospice.org. For the “VolunTEENS” program, email Crystal Burch, volunteer support specialist, at volsupport@caldwellhospice.org.