Change makers. Give unto others. Celebrate service. These are but a few of the phrases that you may have seen associated with National Volunteer Week, celebrated annually in the United States every April.
Volunteerism comes in many shapes and sizes; but some of you may not be aware of the small niche of volunteer work that is available in hospice. The U.S. hospice movement was founded by dedicated volunteers and began solely as a volunteer-based service. And although the modern-day hospice consists of paid employees, volunteers continue to be a foundation of care in hospice today.
They play a vital role in enabling hospices to offer the best care for people who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. By sharing their time, energy and expertise, volunteers bring compassion and caring to the lives of patients and families in need, encouraging them to live every moment of life to the fullest.
You may be asking yourself, “How does one get into hospice volunteerism?”
Watch the video below to hear from some of Unity Hospice’s seasoned volunteers, and how they became interested in hospice.
Some of the volunteers at Unity Hospice want to provide companionship for those who may no longer have friends and family around. Some simply seek experience in their area of study. While many volunteers come to hospice because of a personal experience, much like Unity Hospice of Western Illinois Volunteer Chloe Milot.
“My grandpa had hospice when he was in his final stages of life,” explains Milot. “Experiencing the impact hospice made on me and my family led me to want to give back in that same way.”
Unity Hospice volunteers have the opportunity to assist in office duties or they can also serve patients at the beside – playing music, reading scripture or novels, engaging in conversation or simply being present. Oftentimes, patients may not be able to speak and volunteers offer an alternative way to communication with them and provide comfort.
Milot adds, “Some of my patients are nonverbal, but there’s many different methods you can use to connect with someone.”
For her, music has proved to be a big catalyst for communication. When Milot provides music, one of her patients tries to snap her fingers. “I know she is in a lot of pain, as she struggled to even make those movements. But the impact that music can have on someone is incredible to see.”
Milot concludes, “It’s those moments when I get a simple smile or head nod or finger snapping – something that seems little, but to them is so big – that gives me confirmation that they appreciate our time spent.”
Lucy Hollman, volunteer at Unity Hospice of Greater St. Louis, also enjoys visiting patients at the bedside. In fact, she has spent a lot of time sitting with patients during the very last moments of their life.
“A lot of patients don’t have families who are close by…and so it is our job to with them at the time of their death,” explains Hollman.
A patient’s time of death is a very sacred and emotional time. Hollman finds it to be very rewarding to be with a patient who is actively dying. “I feel as though I am representing the body, especially when family cannot be there, and making sure they are leaving this world comfortably and not alone” she states.
David Marsh, another volunteer at Unity Hospice’s St. Louis location, sought volunteerism as a way to focus less on himself and more on other people who may not be as fortunate. Though he is involved in many activities that kept him busy, none of them make him feel quite as complete as volunteering for hospice.
“I get the opportunity to provide quality of life through companionship,” he says. “I feel as though my visits let them know that someone cares about them and cares about their well-being.”
Marsh oftentimes finds himself wondering what a patient’s life entailed. So, he finds ways to elicit that information from them to engage in conversation about their life. “They feel again that their life has value,” Marsh says.
“There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction in doing this work. Not only does volunteering with hospice provide meaning for my life, but I hope it also brings added value and enrichment to my patients’ lives,” concludes Marsh.
Volunteers inspire us to be better…and to do better. National Volunteer Week is one small way that we can shine a light on the remarkable individuals that have dedicated their time to serving others.
To learn more about Unity Hospice volunteer opportunities in your area, visit our Volunteers page.
About Unity Hospice
Founded in 1992, Unity Hospice is a family owned and operated hospice and palliative care company committed to providing comprehensive care, support and education to people facing a life-limiting illness, those who care for them and the community. Unity Hospice offers care of the highest quality by licensed and competent staff in accordance with laws & regulations and accepted standards of practice. With the dedication to make their patients’ days comfortable, Unity Hospice provides an interdisciplinary approach to each individual and family, in which they go above and beyond every day to meet their needs.