Hospice Volunteers Are A Special Kind Of People

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Volunteers started Hospice services in the Rim Country 20 years ago and volunteers are still an essential part of what Hospice Compassus provides to those in the last stage of life.

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Patty Kaufman

The men and women who volunteer with Hospice Compassus have a special quality and tremendous compassion be-cause the people they serve are dying.

Not everyone has what it takes to be a Hospice volunteer; consequently there are not always enough volunteers to meet the needs in the community, so some volunteers work with more than one client.

Patty Kaufman, volunteer coordinator for Hospice Compassus said she has some volunteers who just do emergencies — filling in when no one else is available. There are also a few volunteers who do not work with patients; instead, they help the staff with paperwork.

There are 26 volunteers with Hospice at present; their experience ranges from just two months of service to 13 years; and they range in age from their early 50s to their late 80s.

A majority of the volunteers — 15 — stepped up to help Hospice after having had a loved one served by it. The volunteers who have not had a firsthand experience with Hospice just want to give back to the community, Kaufman said.

The process to become an active volunteer with Hospice starts with an extended interview about why they want to do the work and how much time can be devoted to it.

“Any amount of time is fine —just one to two hours a month is enough,” Kaufman said.

She explains the training involved, which makes the demands of the service very clear and helps a potential volunteer really decide it is something they can do.

While not everyone has what it takes to be a volunteer with Hospice, there is a careful screening and extensive training for those who offer their time.

The training is offered twice a year — the last one was in August, the next will be in the spring. It is a two-week course covering a multitude of topics. The first week of training starts with how to do the required paperwork; and then continues with how to introduce Hospice services to families and the rights of the patient and families; orientation — learning the history of Hospice, privacy policies and the interdisciplinary team concept; communication; learning about Alzheimer’s, dementia and neurological diseases; health care precautions volunteers need to take; learning about the physical characteristics of the dying person, from comfort care, pain and symptom management to common disease processes.

The second week prospective volunteers learn about the emotional and spiritual aspects of dying; working with patients and families; learning about how funeral arrangements are made and respecting the family and deceased — this part of the training provides an opportunity to see how a body is handled by the mortuary, including cremation, this is an optional part of a prospective volunteer’s education; and then there is a session on the last hours of living and providing comfort to the dying and their loved ones.

Following the initial training, volunteers have the opportunity to learn more through in-service programs offered throughout the year and are required to have at least four hours of additional training annually.

Kaufman said a special effort is made to connect the right volunteer with each patient. Sometimes they will have similar backgrounds — such as both being veterans — or share interests.

What a volunteer does with their patient depends on what the patient wants.

Sometimes it is just having someone to visit with, others need someone to read to them from a newspaper or their favorite magazine.

Since the next formal training is not until the spring, someone interested in becoming a volunteer can come in for a visit, even attend an in-service if they want — though that has not happened yet, Kaufman said — and get on the Hospice mailing list to learn what’s happening.

Rim Country residents who feel they might be the kind of person a Hospice volunteer must be, are encouraged to get in touch with Kaufman and learn more.

Call her at (928) 472-6340 or send her an e-mail at patty .kaufman@hospicecom.com.

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