By Lewis E. Silverman
My father-in-law died three years ago in June. The final weeks leading up to his passing were particularly challenging in terms of providing for his needs. Thankfully, my wife and I were able to find and engage the services of an area hospice. I came away with a deep appreciation of the passion and commitment that it takes to work for a hospice – not only as a paid caregiver, i.e., nurse, social worker, but also as a volunteer. It was through that experience that I was lead to become a hospice volunteer.
To be an effective hospice volunteer, one must have a genuine desire to give comfort, love and care to patients and their families during the end of life period. As a volunteer, I am acutely aware that my words, actions, and deeds will have a tremendous impact on the lives of the patients I am serving.
In order to do my job correctly, I must clearly understand and remain cognizant of my actions. It is not about me. The “I factor” must be removed from the equation. Once that is understood, we are better equipped and prepared to serve those who are in need.
Our presence is aimed at providing the most comfortable and compassionate end of life experience possible. Our value cannot be overstated. As volunteers, we are looked at as ordinary members of the community. For patients, families, and friends, this provides an extremely high comfort level. Because of that relationship, oftentimes we connect with patients on a deep, personal level. It is through this connection that we are able to provide insight to other care team members regarding the overall impact of the care that is being provided. Because we are viewed as “one of them,” patients and their families will sometimes share bits of information that they might be hesitant to share with other members of the care team.
A part of what makes our presence valuable is the unique life perspective and personality that we provide. There are similarities among us that serve as a true indicator of our effectiveness:
- We have an abundance of compassion towards those who are on the end-of-life journey.
- We have a deep-seeded respect for the life they have led.
- We have a clear understanding of our personal limits. We are there to listen to them and not make it about us.
- We have the ability to listen and be supportive regardless of what we see and hear.
The role of a hospice volunteer is not a bed of roses. However, what we experience will last a lifetime. It will enrich not only our lives, but all those who we encounter through our efforts. The kindness and hard work that we share will bring peace to our patients while planting the seeds of purpose and value in our own lives.
So, what are you waiting for?