A glimpse into what it means to be a CHRISTUS Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer and enhance the lives of individuals with life-limiting illness
By: Sue Cook
Hospice care is about enhancing the quality of life when there is a limited amount of time. The root of the word, “hospice,” means “hospitality,” and in hospice, there is an interdisciplinary team involving doctors, nurses (RNs and LVNs), social workers, chaplains, certified nurse aides, a complimentary massage therapist (when available), bereavement counselors and trained volunteers. This endeavor is holistic with the team ensuring the medical, physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient is met, as well as providing bereavement support to the families.
Volunteers play a major role is accomplishing the team goals. They provide services and care that is the essence of time: a period of time dedicated to the individual without the rush that comes in today’s world. Patients and families have an avenue to express their feeling, fears and desires, plus relay the zest of past memories and life.
Volunteers share skills and interests in ways that are a comfort and life-enriching for those who are the recipients. They can become companions who sit by the bed and read, actively listen to stories, play games, listen to music or reflect on their shared favorite things of the past, present and future. Many have enjoyed dancing, traveling, gardening, art, sports, crafts, church and hymns, and the list can go on and on without limit. They may also just enjoy having a volunteer be present.
Volunteers can also be a big help to families by running errands to the grocery or pharmacy, or sitting with the patient to give the family a respite while the family members run the errands. Volunteers can help bring enrichment to many by just being there to hold a hand, provide a compassionate listening ear or just give a positive smile. Sometimes the sharing of others’ lives is not easy, but the personal rewards are great, and most volunteers feel they gain an insight into courage and strength that is a constant inspiration into life’s big picture.
Some volunteers want to share their administrative abilities such as mailings, record keeping, clerical support and special projects. What volunteers can do is not to be confined to a small laundry list of services provided. Just bring your gifts of generosity, creativity and compassionate companionship, and your life will be enhanced, as will the lives of those you are serving with your servant heart.
Patient and family support can be provided in the patient’s own home or a nursing home or assisted-living facility. We must keep in mind that hospice is not a place, but a concept of care. This is a place of comfort care for the patient and the family members that has been specialized and personalized for each individual patient and family. One of the most important aspects of hospice is that it allows for individuals to choose to complete their lives with dignity and peace. Volunteers are a positive resource and relied on as a valued and valuable addition to the team.
Volunteering doesn’t require any special skills, and the time is flexible (according to the need of the individual and family), but you must be 18 years of age and have transportation, as well a background check and a drug screen.
Importantly, know that you matter, and that you will mean much to others. Come join our hospice team, and help others live fully even when there are life limits. This time spent also can help the career and job seeker in their quest for employment and can spark a career interest unknown to them prior to this volunteer endeavor. Employers look for a broad range of experiences and time willingly shared with others for the sake of the community at large.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
– Emily Dickinson, “Complete Poems”
Please share your time, gifts and talents with CHRISTUS Hospice and Palliative Care-Spohn in Corpus Christi, Texas, and the surrounding Coastal Bend area. The contact person is Sue Cook, coordinator of bereavement and volunteer services. The office is located at 6200 Saratoga Blvd., Ste. 104, in Corpus Christi; the telephone number is 361-994-3450; and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Business hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. We welcome you.