Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local News

March 7, 2014

Shades of hospice work

Volunteers do more than visit patients

ASHLAND — Hospice care involves volunteer work on many levels.

Workers don’t just make personal visits. They also immerse themselves in many behind-the-scenes projects.

At Community Hospice in Ashland, volunteers can enter different programs, such as respite care, bereavement, patient visits, greeting and registering at the front desk, working at Camp Nabe, a summer grief camp for youngsters, and other related activities.

The blend between patient interaction and isolated work allows room for volunteers with differing preferences, Volunteer Director LuAnn Vance said.

“There are some volunteers who are hesitant about diving head-first into visiting patients and getting directly involved with the end-of-life care,” she said. “But that’s okay because we have many other jobs to offer besides that.”

Some Community Hospice volunteers were attracted to the program after experiencing the loss of a loved one in Hospice.

However, Community Hospice mandates volunteers to wait for one year after the death of a loved one before they begin visiting patients. Instead, Vance directs them to clerical duties.

Such was the case with volunteer Melinda Todd, whose parents and aunt were cared for by and died in Community Hospice.

She began volunteering in October 2010, starting with duties like shredding, registering patients and running errands. After a year, she began making rounds in the visiting program.

She now works with the 11th Hour Program, where she is placed on an “on-call” list of volunteers who are summoned to be with patients whose health takes a “sudden turn for the worst” and do not have family or caregivers present.

For volunteers who do not want to see patients or do clerical work, bereavement programs are good alternatives, Vance said.

Wilma Justice, director of support services, manages bereavement and Camp Nabe for the organization.

Volunteers in bereavement call families every four months for 13 months after a loved one dies in hospice.

Justice said callers ask families how they are coping and are available to lend support or answer questions.

But bereavement can reach out to children with Camp Nabe.

Community Hospice has hosted the three-day summer camp the past 20 years to provide therapy and support for children, ages 8 to 16, who have lost loved ones.

Held in Boyd County, the camp pairs adult volunteers with children to guide them through the grieving process as they attend lessons on grief, anger management and remembrance while also having fun with sports, like canoeing and fishing.

Todd volunteers with Camp Nabe and said it is one of the most emotional and fulfilling programs provided by Community Hospice.

“The best part is at the end when they release all the balloons,” she said. “I used to have to borrow a lady’s shoulder (to cry on), but now I’ll have to find a new shoulder since she retired. It’s amazing.”

Volunteers looking for smaller duties can work in the main office on Carter Avenue shredding, handling mail or taking calls.

At the Care Center where patients are housed, volunteers can opt to service patients and families with the hospitality cart, fetch groceries each week for the cooks or become hospice ambassadors,  handing out informational brochures at public events.

“If you’re interested in doing voluntary hospice and don’t want to get involved with visits, we can still find a place for you,” Beth Taylor, director of marketing  and community outreach, said.

Vance also said the organization is especially in need of volunteers who are veterans of war.

Justice also manages a program that trains four veteran volunteers who pay hospice visits solely to other veterans as a way of establishing a special connection.

Regardless of a volunteer’s placement, everyone is required to undergo training.

Vance said the training can be basic for new volunteers so they can begin general work, or be tailored for a specific program, such as bereavement or 11th Hour.

Volunteer training for 2014 will be Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Training sessions will be daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the main office at 1480 Carter Ave.

Those wishing to become volunteers are asked to register in advance for the sessions by calling Vance at (800) 926-6184 or (606) 329-1890.

Hospice volunteers must be at least 16 years old. Camp Nabe wokers must be at least 21 years old.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.

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