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Hospice and Home Care can change lives of volunteers and patients

Posted: September 22, 2012 - 11:01pm

Hospice and Home Care of Juneau’s In-Home Volunteer Training is a 20-hour course for volunteers interested in supporting hospice patients who most typically are receiving care at home from family members. Training prepares volunteers to offer support to patients and their families during one of life’s most challenging transitions. This experiential and educational training explores participants’ personal experiences with illness, death, loss, grief and healing, and teaches the hands-on skills needed to support those facing the challenges associated with the end of life.

The training offers a rich, comprehensive learning program designed to enhance self-exploration, deepen understanding and build confidence in providing compassionate care within our diverse community. We ask people that have had a significant loss to wait one year before attending hospice volunteer training, to allow time and space for one’s own healing.

The opportunities for volunteering in hospice are many and quite diverse. This training is designed specifically to prepare new volunteers to enter a patient’s home to provide respite care and support. In addition to sitting with a patient while family are away doing errands, an in-home volunteer might write letters for a patient, walk the dog, read to a patient, etc. We are seeking new in-home volunteers to join our core group of experienced hospice volunteers.

This in-home volunteer training, however, will be quite useful and educational for those volunteers who might have an interest in our other volunteer areas within hospice. For example we have a need for more volunteers to assist with bringing medical equipment into patient’s homes. As a small program, we depend on volunteers to deliver, assemble and take down hospital beds, wheel chairs, etc. Our goal is to recruit a small team of people who might be involved as volunteers in this aspect of the Hospice services team.

We also rely heavily on volunteers to help with special projects and fundraisers such as our annual Remembrance Gathering, Light up a Life, Heart of Hospice and Home Care Fun Run and Whale Watch Cruise. These events educate the community and promote awareness of Hospice and Home Care services, and are also an important source of our program funding.

We also have volunteer opportunities within the bereavement support portion of our program which include assisting with sending out regular mailings to bereaved family members, helping to ensure families are contacted by staff at regular intervals for emotional support, and offering such support after a patient’s death as a trained in-home volunteer.

Betty Johnson, an in-home volunteer for Juneau Hospice and Home Care shared about her experiences.

Betty explained that she decided to explore volunteering for hospice after she “took care of (her) mother (who had cancer).”

“She (Betty’s mother) did not want to be out of her home so hospice came in. My sisters came in and took turns staying with her, then I traveled to Idaho where my mother lived and I spent the last three weeks of her life with her.” Betty said.

Betty explained that she did her mother’s personal care, including “putting on lotion and makeup” for her mother “every day,” because her mother enjoyed this.

Betty explained, “I didn’t see the changes as a terrible thing,” and said she saw her mother’s decline in health and rather accepted those changes as part of life.

“She passed peacefully,” Betty said of her mother’s death three weeks after she arrived to volunteer.

“There are patients and family members who are struggling (with the dying process),” Betty said, and her focus as a hospice volunteer is to find ways to support them. “Every situation is different.”

She said sometimes simply “holding someone’s hand and comforting a person ... helps diminish their fear.” Regarding offering support to dying patients and their family members Betty said, “It doesn’t frighten me.”

She explained that after her mother’s death she realized that “if I can do that (provide support) for my mother, I can do it for others.”

Betty’s hospice volunteering has enriched her own life, and also enriched our community.

In-Home Hospice Volunteer Training is 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for three consecutive Saturdays, Oct. 13, 20 and 27. It is offered to ommunity members with an interest in volunteering and in end of life care and is free of charge, but space is limited so preregistration is required.

Training will be at 419 Sixth Street in the training center room (the old St. Ann’s dining room.) Parking is available in the lots on Gold Street across from the building and on Sixth between Gold and Harris.

For more information or to pre-register for this training call either of the two hospice volunteer coordinators, Gary Weglarz at 463-6169 or Colleen Jones at 463-6106.

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