“She’s really cool, really pleasant.” That is how Chuck describes Lois Lee, a hospice patient he visits with on Monday nights. Chuck is 31; Lois is 90. “We have a lot more in common than outward appearances might imply.”
Hospice volunteers are a valuable part of the patient care team. Volunteers work with a clinical team of a doctor, nurse, aide, chaplain and social worker. Because they spend time with the patient, volunteers who provide direct patient care can often give the team valuable feedback about issues that may arise during their visits.
When Lois first heard that she was getting a male volunteer, she was surprised. “When they said ‘He’, I thought, what am I going to do with a male? And they said, he is young and a part-time student. And I thought, I’ll try anything once. And then he came, and now I won’t let him quit.”
“He comes about 6:30 p.m. and we talk until about 8:30 p.m. And we just talk about everything! Politics, Plato, philosophy, spirituality, quantum physics…I don’t even know what that is,” said Lois. She noted that he is the same age as her grandchildren, of which she has ten -- and 17 great-grandchildren!
“I was really flattered and surprised when I got the call from Hospice that she had such a positive experience. That meant a lot,” said Chuck.
To that, Lois said, “I told everybody!”
This connection is a big part of what makes hospice volunteer so valuable. The companionships created provide comfort to a patient during the end-of-life process. Sometimes patients may not have any family or loved ones to visit them and a volunteer can offer friendship and emotional support.
In fact, Medicare-certified hospice programs are required to have trained volunteers as part of the services they provide. Five percent of the patient care hours provided in hospice care must be completed by volunteer team members. Volunteers are required to undergo training to gain understanding of the goals for hospice care and their role and function as a volunteer.
Melanie Hagan is a Community Engagement Coordinator for Bluegrass Care Navigators. She recruits, trains and matches volunteers with organization needs. “Volunteers can range in age from teenagers to seniors. In training, we go over volunteer opportunities and discuss how their roles relate to our patients and families,” said Hagan.
Hagan noted that volunteers are needed for both patient care and other organizational work, and that many professional talents meet volunteer needs. “If you are a hairdresser, massage therapist, musician, skilled in sewing or crafting… there’s usually a great fit in our volunteer program for someone’s expertise,” said Hagan.
Although there is such an age difference in Chuck and Lois, their story is not unique. Hospice has many volunteers who echo the same sentiment – that volunteering can be very rewarding and they get so much out of the experience. Getting to know and spend time with patients and their families can make a difference in their lives as well as the volunteer.
When Lois was asked what she thought about Chuck, she had one more thing to say. “He’s just great. He is just a big overgrown kid. I just love him to death; he is so sweet.”
If you are interested in finding out how to volunteer with Bluegrass Care Navigators, please go to bgcarenav.org/more-about-us/volunteer.