Importance of Hospice volunteers:
Volunteers play such an important role in end-of-life caregiving. Although they are unpaid, most work 8-16 hours a month. As for “companion caregivers” like me, the two most important services we provide are, as the name implies, companionship for the patient, and “relief” for the rest of the caregiving team: loved ones, nurses, etc.
Rewards of being a Hospice volunteer:
Volunteering with patients at the end-of-life has taught me so many lessons. They’ve taught me about time, how elastic it is and how much meaning and value can be wrung out of what is considered "so little" time. And they’ve taught me the value of simply being present. While bringing a patient a McDonald’s frappé or brownie from a local bakery is always welcomed, what means the most is the willingness to listen. Everyone wants to feel needed, valued and loved. I receive as at least as much from listening and being present (by witnessing courage, for instance) as I give. There are always days when I think I’m too busy, yet after each visit I feel rejuvenated.
How and why I came to volunteer:
I became a hospice volunteer quite by accident. In February 2009, I was walking back from getting coffee in my hometown of Warrenton, Virginia, when I saw this tiny rather sketchy looking building with a sign that said, Hospice Support of Fauquier County. I’d been living in Warrenton for nearly twenty years and never knew it existed. For some reason, I decided to go inside and see what it was all about. Inside I met the Executive Director, Joy LeBaron, and she led me to an incredibly joyful, awe-inspiring new priority in my life. On my first visit as a volunteer, I met Bob Zimmerman. He had cancer and Alzheimer’s, but he spoke six languages and had served in the Peace Corps in Vietnam in the early days of the war. I was floored and humbled and knew I had to do this.