It takes a lot of courage to befriend someone who is at the end of life. It takes compassion to sit at their bedside and listen to their stories, fears and wishes. It takes devotion to do this simply out of the kindness of your heart. But that’s what Brookdale Hospice volunteers do every day.
This week is Volunteer Appreciation Week, and we at Brookdale couldn’t be more grateful for the men, women and teens who share their giving spirit with us every day. We are thankful for the generosity of roughly 100 nationwide volunteers who annually provide more than five percent of our direct patient care hours.
Founded in the spirit of volunteerism, hospice care brings comfort and support to patients and families when a life-limiting illness is no longer responding to treatment. When physical health is declining, hospice care treats the body, mind and spirit. Volunteers are an integral part of the care team.
While Brookdale’s clinical staff is vital, volunteers provide the missing link – friendship. Hospice volunteers are specially trained to serve patients at the end of life. They provide companionship for patients, respite care for caregivers and can assist with chores, shopping or transportation.
The stories I hear from volunteers in the field always remind me of the importance of our work. I spoke with a woman named Emily who grew so close to a patient that she referred to her as “My Pat.” Her favorite memory of “My Pat” was at an ice cream shop. She says her face lit up when she saw all the flavors she could choose from.
While Pat’s death was hard on Emily, she said the experience was “a privilege, like walking on sacred ground.” She grieved Pat’s death, but was eager to take on new patients because she understood the impact she has on their end-of-life journey. Emily is now volunteering with three patients and is hopeful to gain a fourth.
Volunteers like Emily are the heart of hospice. Their selfless spirit not only provides comfort for patients and families – it embodies the true spirit of volunteerism – to give more than you receive. The biggest misconception about hospice care is that it is about dying, but that simply isn’t true. Hospice care is about living. Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, Brookdale Hospice patients are living every second of their final days to the fullest.