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Posted: Monday, October 27, 2014

Volunteers are a crucial part of hospice care

Hospice care isn’t easy to talk about. Certainly, no one wants to think about needing hospice care for their loved one or themselves. However, hospice remains not only an important topic to be open to talking about, but also a means of support and care for a person in what arguably is his or her time of greatest need. Simply being there for someone to listen, lend a hand and offer comfort can make a world of difference for him or her.

Currently, Blount Memorial’s Hospice and Palliative Care program has 16 active volunteers, but licensed clinical social worker Emily Feeback says the program could use twice as many. “Everyone has his or her own reasons for wanting to become a hospice volunteer,” Feeback said. “Sometimes, people have had experiences with hospice care in their own families, and they were impressed with the support that was available. They want to be able to give that support back to someone else,” she explained. “But, it’s crucial to understand that the volunteers bring something to the patient that his or her medical team cannot,” she added.

Hospice volunteers perform specific tasks for patients. Often, that can include assisting with housework or lawn care; spending time with patients so that their primary caregivers can take breaks or run errands; or simply listening, affirming and encouraging patients to share their life stories, something that is very important to many people. Volunteers typically help one family at a time for a few hours each week. “Right now, we have one caregiver who is able to go out to lunch with her husband because we have a volunteer who can help her,” Feeback said. “It makes a huge difference in her ability to continue to care for her loved one and not feel as if she’s stretched too thin. I’ve had people say that having hospice volunteers has completely changed their family’s experience,” she explained. “It means so much to them to find out that there is someone who is doing this for their family, simply because they care,” she added.

Becoming a volunteer is as simple as filling out an application, setting up an interview and completing 14 hours of required training. “The training is designed to help someone truly understand what it is going to be like and make sure they’re comfortable,” Feeback explained.

“Sometimes people worry about being asked to do something beyond their comfort zone,” Feeback said. “Our volunteers are not tasked with hands-on medical care. We are very careful not to put our volunteers in situations they may not be comfortable with. We try to find people who already are somewhat comfortable with volunteering in this way. It’s best to find someone who can help patients focus on the idea that we’re all alive today and find ways we can make today the best it can be,” she explained.

“Ultimately, this is about life. This isn’t about someone dying. This is about helping people,” Feeback said.

For more information about becoming a hospice volunteer, call Blount Memorial Hospice at 865-977-5702.

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