A hospice volunteer can do many things for their patients, sometimes without even saying a word.
“We’ll walk with them and read with them if they are able,” said June Johnson, a hospice volunteer with Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services in Wilmington, NC. “But sometimes we are there to keep them company, and that can really mean a lot. Sometimes, just holding their hand means so much.”
Unspoken communication is a large part of a hospice volunteer’s world, and Johnson has really understood the impact of hospice volunteering since becoming a volunteer with Liberty three years ago. Johnson said she, like many others, was a little hesitant about becoming a hospice volunteer at first. Hospice patients typically have six months or less to live, and she was afraid about how the death of a patient might affect her.
“A lot of people I know still say that,” she said. “But you have to set your mind as a hospice volunteer to understand that a patient’s death is just part of it. Your responsibility is to make things as easy for them as you can. The dying is really a part of living.”
Johnson said patients and their families express appreciation for the time she spends with a patient. Some patients don’t have family at their side all the time, and having a hospice volunteer come visit can help them through their life-limiting circumstance.
“We try to spend at least an hour with every patient when we see them,” Johnson said. “Just seeing our face can make such a difference.”
National statistics say that there are an estimated 468,000 hospice volunteers providing more than 22 million hours of service to hospice programs each year.
“Hospice volunteers play an indispensable role in enabling Liberty Hospice to offer the best care possible for patients living with life-limiting illness, their families and caregivers,” Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services Wilmington Operations Manager Rebecca Davis said. “By sharing their time, energy, and expertise, our volunteers bring compassion and caring to the lives of those in need.”
Liberty HomeCare & Hospice Services is always looking for hospice volunteers, and often has 15 percent or more of patient care hours provided by volunteers.
“If anyone is interested in becoming a hospice volunteer, I would really encourage them to do so,” Johnson said. “It is so rewarding.”