11th Hour Volunteering: Keeping Vigil with Patients at The Bedside

As an 11th Hour Volunteer, I have had the privilege of keeping vigil with patients at their bedsides at the very end of their lives. The term vigil comes from the 12th century Old French term vigile, meaning “to watch or guard.” I embrace that implication that I am keeping watch over our patients. Other 11th Hour Volunteers I have talked with at Heart ‘n Home have told me poignant stories from their service keeping vigil. Our experience with patients as they are actively dying is incredibly rewarding. What a honor it is to be a presence when they are most visible. Hospice teaches us about what truly matters and how to live bravely and transparently.

Cicely Saunders, who launched the modern hospice movement, said this of our calling in hospice, “’Watch with me’ means, still more than all our learning of skills, our attempts to understand mental suffering and loneliness and to pass on what we have learnt. It means also a great deal that cannot be understood. Those words did not mean ‘understand what is happening’ when they were first spoken. Still less did they mean ‘explain’ or ‘take away’. However much we can ease distress, however much we can help the patients to find a new meaning in what is happening, there will always be the place where we will have to stop and know that we are really helpless. It would be very wrong indeed if, at that point, we tried to forget that this was so and to pass by. It would be wrong if we tried to cover it up, to deny it and to delude ourselves that we were always successful. Even when we feel that we can do absolutely nothing, we will still have to be prepared to stay. ‘Watch with me’ means, above all, just ‘be there’. I remember the patient who said of the people who had really helped her, ‘They never let you down. They just keep on coming.’”

This is what we do when we keep vigil as 11th Hour Volunteers. We are a crucial part of the team, even as we just watch. Being there is a great comfort to our patients, their families, and our Heart ‘n Home team. We have 11th Hour Volunteer Trainings in every area over the next few months. Please call your local Heart ‘n Home office and sign up with your Volunteer Coordinator. I am also available and would love to talk more with you about this fulfilling way to serve.

Sarah Poe, CPS
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

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Hospice Youth Volunteer Scholarship Winners: Fruitland High School

Congratulations to the 2011-2012 Cicely Ambassadors for a very successful year of serving patients and your community, as well as all of the countless moments that will be not be forgotten.  A special congratulations to our scholarship winners from Fruitland High School:

  • Milly Davis ($1,500)
  • Kacie Gastanaga ($1,250)
  • Emily Tingey ($1,250)
  • Daniel Dahle ($1,000)
  • Jandee Carlson (1,000)

We are very proud of your successes and look forward to the 2012-2013 Ambassador Team who are already trained and volunteering.

Pictured Left to right: Todd Stice, CFO, Heart ‘n Home; Milly Davis; Jandee Carlson; and Kacie Gastanaga (Daniel Dahle not pictured)

Veteran-Volunteering

At The Bedside of a Navy Veteran

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AT THE BEDSIDE OF A NAVY VETERAN

One of the most beautiful moments I have experienced was during my 11th Hour Volunteer shift. A Navy Veteran had passed so peacefully with his wife, daughters, Nurse, and myself at his bedside. This was without a doubt one of the most touching and meaningful experiences I have ever witnessed.

I had arrived at 4:00 a.m. to begin my 11th Hour shift at the patient’s bedside. His Nurse was present as well. Our patient was very peaceful and quiet as he lay in his bed. As his time drew quickly to the end, one daughter took her place next to her father on his bed. She hugged him one last time and all told him how much they loved him. She also told him that it was okay for him to make his final journey home.

He passed away so peacefully at that moment and was surrounded by those he loved most in his life. It was such a touching, profound moment. One that I will never forget. We each have the opportunity to be present at the very end of one’s life.

A question we often hear, “What does the 11th Hour mean?” It means the last moments. The last, most precious, most private time before passing to the next realm. It’s a time when family gathers to show love and respect to their loved ones. It’s a time of remembrance, stories, and faith.

Heart ‘n Home provides 11th Hour Volunteers as a support to patients and families. Someone who is a non-family member, who can be present and observe for any additional needs. Often times, it is just a listening ear and simply sitting with a patient. It is also necessary for caregiver respite, as they are often worn out and not sleeping near as much as they should. Volunteers are trained to know what to do and when to do it. They will make the necessary calls to the appropriate people relieving the family from this task.

11th Hour is the last of our loved ones’ physical time with us on earth. Heart ‘n Home wants that time to be comfortable and peaceful. Our 11th Hour Volunteers help us make that possible! If you are interested in learning more about becoming an 11th Hour Volunteer, please contact your local Volunteer Coordinator.

Anita Bergquist,
Caldwell Volunteer Coordinator
Heart ‘n Home Hospice & Palliative Care, LLC

 

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