Why One Volunteer Shares His Time with Hospice Patients
When Kent Hill’s wife of 32 years, Sandy, was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), an incurable nerve disease also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, he felt alone. With no nearby family and a spouse facing a terminal illness, Kent was relieved when Sandy was admitted into Memorial’s Home Hospice program, which cares for patients in central Illinois with a life-limiting illness in the comforts of home.
“I was kind of on my own with this,” Kent said. “I didn’t have any brothers and sisters; we didn’t have any kids, so I was glad when the Hospice team showed up.”
Kent said an integral part of that team was a volunteer named Julie. Memorial Home Hospice has nearly 60 volunteers who help the care team provide patients with companionship and perform other tasks, such as running errands or doing light chores. Volunteers also can provide bereavement support to families and loved ones after the patient has passed.
“Julie managed to bond with my wife,” Kent said. “And my wife and I both benefited from our association with Julie.”
After his wife had passed, Kent was inspired to become a Hospice volunteer himself. Because of his own experience with Hospice, he said he is able to empathize with the patients he now serves and is happy to assist them.
“I do chores, I transport people to and from medical treatments, I can provide companionship. It’s a privilege to serve patients and their caregivers at this critical time in their lives,” he said.
Though it may seem difficult for a hospice volunteer to bond with a patient who is terminally ill, many, including Kent, say they find the experience personally rewarding and even life-affirming in that they are making a difference in the life of someone else. It’s also a way for them to give back to their communities.