By Sarah Richards
When most people think of hospice, they think only of death and dying, but hospice isn’t about mortality.
Hospice is about quality of life. Hospice isn’t a place—rather, it’s a specialized type of medical care. Donating one’s time, talents and heart to hospice is a wonderful way to improve one’s “soft skills” (i.e. emotional intelligence, interpersonal communication, listening, friendliness and empathy, to name a few), which future employers look for.
Assisting with family dynamics is one of the many services hospice offers, which utilize social workers and chaplains working together to help reconnect family members who may have become estranged over the years.
Hospice doesn’t promote any particular religious belief, but if one so wishes, Spiritual Care Coordinators are available to answer questions and allow patients and family members to establish a faith foundation, which can become a source of strength.
Hospice doesn’t simply accept patients—they accept families—and treat the family as a whole. Hospice care is provided for patients wherever they call home. Home can be a family residence, assisted living facility, nursing home or hospital.
To qualify for hospice, a patient must have a life expectancy of six months or less. Although it is not unusual for patients to continue to receive hospice care longer than six months, some patients stabilize or improve to the point that they are no longer eligible for the service.
Students who wish to volunteer will receive training, even if their service is simply to offer friendship.
There are many ways students can volunteer and can use their majors to help them sharpen their skills while serving others.
Those who are pursuing a cosmetology career can offer to cut hair at the college (as only those who are licensed cosmetologists can do the same for patients or caregivers at their homes or facility).
Culinary students might be interested in hosting events.
There are mini-life reviews for technical writing students, in which volunteers help patients and caregivers document their life stories for posterity.
Sometimes, having a favorite book read aloud is requested by a patient.
If direct patient contact doesn’t fit one’s personality or comfort level, there are also administrative duties such as filing (i.e. assisting with medical records, answering telephones, and sending mail. Some tasks can even be done from home, which is a convenient option, if transportation or childcare is an issue.
Volunteers can visit patients in their homes or long-term care facilities to provide socialization and companionship, which helps not only the patient, but the caregivers, who may need a break for something as simple as a nap. Helping those who help is a gift to both patient and caregiver.
There are simple duties like dog bathing or calling BINGO at a facility, as well.
So, whatever your interest or hobby might be, there can be a place for you at Emerald Coast Hospice.
Volunteer opportunities are available that incorporate all interests, such as pet therapy, informal music, and art therapy. One could start a choir at a nursing home or be a handyman for someone who cannot complete the simple home maintenance any longer.
There are hundreds of crafts to do (allowing one to channel their inner Etsy or Pinterest alter-ego), such as teddy bears made from hand towels, activity blankets for Alzheimer’s patients, knitted scarves or hats for winter warmth and life review posters to display in patient rooms that let staff and visitors know just how special they are.
Volunteers can also assemble “Baskets of Love”, which can include items such as novels, devotionals, puzzle books, hygiene products, sweets and plush animals. If a volunteer has a gift of making things happen, they can take a cue from the “Make a Wish” foundation and have an entertainer visit one of their fans in hospice.
The possibilities of helping at Hospice are endless.
Hospice is about making the newest memories the best ever, and volunteers are a large part of that.
For those interested in volunteering, contact Cathy LaPaugh at (850) 995-4664 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.