“Hospice volunteering is just what I do,” says Jan, Heart ‘n Home Hospice Volunteer. “My first few visits were with a couple that were both on hospice. The first visit was a meet and greet and not very long. I got up to leave and the wife said, “The first thing I thought when I saw you was that you were a kind and loving person.” That visit touched my heart and set the tone for all my visits since then. They passed shortly after that and only a few weeks apart.”
When you mention volunteering in hospice it may seem sad or depressing to some people, but if you ask a Heart ‘n Home Volunteer about their experience you will quickly learn that it’s actually quite the opposite. When volunteering with hospice you learn that it’s not about being sad and watching someone die, it’s about blessing the life of a person who has limited time left on Earth. Hospice was started by volunteers and our Volunteers today continue to be an integral part of the hospice philosophy.
“I had visited with one of my next patients for over a year. I love doing puzzles and so did this patient. Once I figured out what she liked, I would bring a different puzzle with me to each visit. The patient would wait for me at the window and come to the door and greet me when she saw my jeep coming up the driveway. We had wonderful talks while putting together puzzles. Some of the conversations still make me giggle. She used to walk me out to my jeep until her daughter had to put up a gated fence because her mom started trying to take herself on walks around town. This patient loved red licorice. I would bring her licorice and had to warn the staff that she might have a little red around her lips. The day the patient could not come to the table to put puzzles together with me was a sad day. I know that I am bringing joy to patients while they are with us and they are at peace when they have gone,” Jan adds.
Each patient that we Volunteers have the opportunity to get to know, to serve, and to love, touches our lives in amazing ways. The time together creates a special connection and the memories created stay with us forever.
Jan shares a few more experiences. “One of my current patients was very difficult at first. This patient isolated herself and would not come out of her room. She was unhappy with having to move out of her house and her community and needed someone to vent to. I understood her frustrations and reassured her that I heard what she was saying. I kept going back and trying different things to help her. Eventually, I started reading the Bible to her while she sat on the back porch. Then she started coloring with me and finally, we made cards for Veterans at Valentine’s Day. Now, when I ask what she would like to do, she says. “Whatever you want to do I will do.”
“My most memorable patient was in memory care. She had no memory whatsoever and could not talk. I started by reading Psalms to her and she would smile. I found out she liked music and I started playing Alan Jackson, “Precious Memory”. She could not talk, but she could sing that song. Residents would stop in and sing, dance, smile, and chat together. I will never forget the joy that I was able to observe and share in with that patient.”
Hospice Volunteers have the unique experience of serving patients who are in a very vulnerable state. Many hospice patients are unable to go out and visit others, do all their yard work, or drive to go get their medications. They are in a position where they can’t take care of themselves like they used to. Often times, they have lived full lives and have taken care of others, now they are the ones who need help. Volunteers come to the aid of these hospice patients. By giving selflessly of their time, Volunteers make a difference to those they serve. In return, the Volunteer has been changed for the better.
If you are interested in learning about ways to serve others in your community, Heart ‘n Home has an opportunity for you. Visit our Volunteer page on our website to learn how you can make a difference in not only someone else’s life but your own.