Hospice care provides comprehensive and compassionate care for someone with a life-limiting illness. Trinity Health Hospice involves a team-oriented approach – including doctors, nurses, social workers, aides, and chaplains—to provide medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes.
Volunteers also play a valuable role with hospice patients by providing essential non-medical care and companionship to help hospice patients and their families. The assistance hospice volunteers provide depends on the needs of the family, explained Brenda Boehler, BSW, volunteer coordinator for Trinity Health Hospice. They can offer emotional and spiritual support or respite, so the caregiver can have a rest time or run errands away from the home. “They can play cards, read, sing, walk the dog, shovel snow, or help with yard work,” Brenda said.
As a volunteer, Linda Jung goes into the patients’ homes where she sits with patients, giving the caregiver time to do whatever they need to. While the requests are for Jung to sit with the patient for two hours, she is usually only needed for a shorter time, such as 15 or 30 minutes, “depending on the situation.”Linda has been a volunteer with Trinity Health Hospice for about six years. Her husband, Gary, had been on Hospice for a brief time before he died. After his death, Linda attended the support group that Hospice held. Then, one day, Linda was going to Trinity Health’s CancerCare Center to volunteer. However, she made a wrong turn in the building and found herself at the hospice office. The hospice coordinator at the time had recognized Linda from her attendance at the support group; she assured Linda that she didn’t take the wrong turn—she was meant to be in the hospice office to be a volunteer.
“Volunteering does mean so much to the patients and the families we serve,”Brenda said, adding there is “always a need” for hospice volunteers.
Volunteers can also help within the hospice office. Lolly Rostad, who has volunteered with hospice for almost 30 years (“I’ve been here forever,” she said with a laugh), helps to mail out bereavement cards to families. Every two weeks, Lolly comes to the office and mails them out. Before, the cards were sent out periodically, but now they are sent out every month and phone calls are made to bereaved families to check on them. When Trinity Health Hospice takes on a patient, they also incorporate the family, Brenda said.
Many people ask Linda what she does with her time now that she is retired. When she tells them about her duties as a hospice volunteer, almost always, their response is “I could never do that,” she said.
“My comment is, ‘You’re selling yourself short,’” she said. “It’s a great honor and privilege to be able to do this. No matter how difficult it is, it is an honor.”
Linda said that she had “the gift” of being with her husband, as well as her mother, mother-in-law, and sister, when they made their “journey to death.”
“It’s not a scary frightening thing by any means,” she added. “It’s actually quite beautiful no matter how much sorrow is involved. It is an honor and a gift.”