In honor of National Volunteer Week, two volunteers describe why they serve in hospice care:

Volunteering is Rewarding

“Volunteering is so rewarding to me! It’s for our patient caregivers; to give them relief and to share on a personal level with our patients. 

Caregivers need a break for their appointments – to get a haircut, pick up medications, or do grocery shopping. Knowing someone is there, with their loved one, while they do their errands, gives the caregiver peace of mind. For me, this is a prearranged time that can be one to four hours, whatever works for my schedule and their needs.

Also, I offer spiritual support for some patients who wish to speak about their beliefs. While hospice does have chaplains, I don’t mind talking about whatever the patient wants. I may play a hymn or songs from my phone. Sometimes they sing along, hum along, or they may be quiet and relaxed. And I love to read to them … their favorite Psalm, a short chapter in a book, the newspaper, or a favorite magazine.

The biggest treasure, for me, is legacy, which is collecting the patient’s memories. I ask open-ended questions and, with their permission, write down their answers, which can be shared with caregivers, the family, or just me. I had one patient, who had no remaining family, ask, “Who cares about me and my memories?” I replied, “I do, if you will share with me.”

What a difference it made in our visits. Watching the change of facial expression go from pain to memory is precious. The patient takes time to answer the questions, which can be about anything. I ask about their childhood, family, schooling, service, work, favorite colors, or a favorite outfit or food. All are easy questions, which give the patient something to focus on other than the pain they may be going through.

Other times, I am asked to visit, where I sit with the patient while the caregiver works around the house. The patient can be sleeping or chatty. Whatever is needed is what I give. I am thankful to be a hospice volunteer.”  – Lores Morton

Hospice is about Love and Life

“I love people; especially people who need love. Death and dying are natural, but over our lives, we’ve been socialized to fear death to the point that we fear those who are dying.

Hospice is not about death. It’s about life! It’s about living for now. It’s about being able to experience joy and love for as long as a body can. It’s about living the best possible life for a limited amount of time. We could all learn from hospice principles. Mindfulness, love, comfort, and joy. We all need these.

I love that hospice takes the dying process and allows it to unfold naturally, providing comfort where it is needed.

Hospitals are built to save and prolong life, without much worry about the quality of the time left on earth. Just treat and release. Hospice is about experience. Hospice knows a patient is dying, so painful procedures that diminish the quality of life to prolong it are not what’s important. The quality of life remaining is important, from entry into care until the last breath is exhaled, and beyond.

The beyond is beautiful, too. A hospice patient is cared for even after death. Bathed with gentleness and dignity. Dressed in a way that would be comfortable for them and comforting to their loved ones. Details are seen to — a rosary in the hand of the patient, a beloved teddy bear, and gently combed hair. Dignity above all else.

Hospice cares for those who are still living when their loved one has crossed the veil. Grief counseling, anecdotes where appropriate and so many ways to lovingly remember the patient are provided.

For me, a volunteer, hospice is about life. Hospice is about love. Hospice is about having the honor of escorting a patient and their loved ones through this last leg of their journey on earth and bidding farewell when the time comes. We don’t know what comes next, so hospice is also about now.” – Kelly Orwig

To learn more about volunteering to serve the local community through CHP Home Care & Hospice, contact your local CHP office or fill out a simple, volunteer application. There are opportunities to help directly with patients or behind the scenes with events or office tasks.