Volunteers are at the heart of hospice

With today’s busy lifestyle, time is one of the most precious resources in our lives and hospice volunteers give their time freely. They may never realize the profound difference they make in a person’s life. A listening ear, a kind touch, a gentle presence can mean so much to a hospice patient and their family. Hospice volunteers generously give their gift of time to make these connections, to make a difference in the lives of their patients and families; and what they often discover is what their patients give back to them. Hospice volunteering becomes one of the most rewarding experiences of their lives. Hospice volunteers discover how volunteering challenges them to grow and to live – not merely exist. Hospice volunteers learn not to take life for granted, to live each day to the fullest.

Senator Edward Kennedy said these words about hospice, “The hospice movement is a great movement, not because it was legislated by Congress, or mandated by the Federal Government, but because it evolved out of the hearts of people who care.” Hospice care was started by volunteers. Hospice Volunteers are vital members of the hospice team. A fundamental goal of the hospice philosophy is to preserve the tie between the patient and community so that patient and family are not further isolated during the last phases of an illness. Thus, hospice volunteers are not merely a desirable addition to the professional hospice staff; they are a crucial part of the hospice concept. Through the volunteer’s visits, the patient and family remain in contact with the world beyond their own home and beyond hospice. Life can become normal again for a short time. It is the hospice volunteer that helps to maintain or reestablish the patient’s sense of self-worth and gives family members increased freedom to live a more normal daily existence.

On average, hospice patients have usually been in and out of hospitals for tests, scans, or possible surgeries for years prior to their hospice admission. Both the patient and their loved ones have been through moments of fear, anxiety, and despair amidst glimmers of hope. They are tired and need support: emotional, social, psychological and spiritual support. They need someone to hold their hand, to share their pain, to listen to them, someone who can be there and in a sense, meet them where they are in life’s final journey. Hospice volunteers provide this and give the patient and family someone they can count on for those small but important daily needs. It is the hospice volunteer’s caring that brings life and breath to hospice.

Pastor David Weber of St. Peter & Paul Lutheran Church in Houghton will receive Portage Health Hospice’s Volunteer of the Year Award Tuesday at their annual dinner honoring and celebrating hospice volunteers for their commitment of time and most importantly, the difference they make in the lives of hospice patients.

To learn more about hospice or to become a volunteer, contact 906-483-1160.

Editor’s note:?Marianne Berghefer is a hospice volunteer and bereavement coordinator at Portage Health.