Medi Home Hospice Fredericksburg is dedicated to our wonderful hospice volunteers. We want you to feel appreciated, be educated, be energized and be informed!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Hospice Volunteer Stories From the Heart

By Karen E Robinson, Medi Hospice Volunteer Coordinator
Stories from the heart bring us encouragement and uplift our spirits, helping us to remember that life is precious. Hospice volunteers are out in the homes and facility rooms of the dying every day. They give of themselves for the simple joy of knowing 
that the recipient has been touched by unconditional love. Volunteers have no agenda but to bring a smile to a lonely man’s face.  Whether it is a toothy grin or outright chuckle the life course has been altered. A day has been brightened. The life of the terminally ill is doomed to be shortened by a disease they can’t control.  There are no more treatment solutions; there are no more transplants to be done; there might seem to be no hope…However we look, hope is always available in abundance. Hospice is all about hope; hopefulness in a future free from the agony of pain; hopefulness in quality time spent with dear loved ones and friends; hopefulness in the realization of a life well lived.

Volunteers giving of themselves to make a difference are often surprised by the blessings they receive and the experiences they encounter.  Some of these experiences are wonderful and sad simultaneously. Some of the blessings are completely unexpected. However, one thing can be certain: hospice volunteering will never be predictable.

In the following paragraphs I am going to share some real life hospice volunteer stories. After interviewing a prospective volunteer yesterday I reflected on the questions he asked me and how the answers I gave were wrapped up with a story of a real hospice volunteer experience. After working as a Volunteer Coordinator with hospice for 10 years I have many stories to tell. Here the stories are just a small sampling. May they be as blessed in the telling as they were in the living. 
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💖On a clear day in October I assigned a male volunteer to visit a man, who in his 50’s had a terminal disease that was ravaging his body. His wife, the caregiver, worked out of the home as she was unable to leave him alone. They were avid cat lovers and owned more than 6 Maine Coon cats. These were lovable kitties, but he was warned that they do not generally warm up to strangers. On his first visit, as he sat with the couple in their living room – surrounded by the cats! They eyeballed him carefully and he ignored their presence, instead focusing on the patient. As he sat visiting and listening to the patient’s life story he felt a movement behind him and all at once a kitty was in his lap and beside him on the back of the couch. The lap cat purred and snuggled, while the other proceeded to sniff and lick his ear! Surrounded by these cats and not wanting to offend the couple he endured the ‘love’. They later told him that he was welcome back into their home any time and that the cats had given their seal of approval! He visited this man for many months helping him to clean out his home and garage in preparation for his death.
💖The day that the patient was admitted to hospice it was clear that a volunteer assigned would need to be willing to emotionally accept the very poor conditions in which this person was living. She was a young 50 and she lived in a one room trailer with no running water or toilet. She used a bucket to relieve herself and feebly transported that bucket in a child’s wagon to the neighboring trailer where her daughter, boyfriend and grandchild lived. She owned 2 dogs and they were her babies and longtime companions. However, the dogs were not gentle and fluffy, but big and vicious – at least to a stranger. When I asked the volunteer to care for this patient she was cautious and rather apprehensive. However, the compassionate spirit of this volunteer transcended her outward fears and she agreed to visit this patient. Upon her arrival for the initial visit the 2 dogs bounded out of the trailer, barking viciously and jumping on her car. She rolled the window down ever so slightly and the patient was able to shoo the dogs away. The volunteer was able to visit and get to know the patient. Her one room trailer was hardy bigger than her bed. She had little food and it was nearly the holidays. The volunteer suggested that they have a trip out into the city for their next visit. The patient had not been out for many months and was absolutely ecstatic at this opportunity. 

As Christmas approached the volunteer discovered that her only relatives were leaving her and traveling out of state. She hatched a plan to visit the patient on Christmas Day and take her to have a meal. This was the last Christmas the patient would likely experience and the joy she experienced that day was indescribable. The hospice volunteer planted seeds of encouragement and hope into the heart of this patient.

💖The patient was estranged from her two adult children and there were no other relatives
 involved in her life. For the most part she was alone. After her admission to hospice she requested a volunteer. When the volunteer met the patient her heart was broken, for the loneliness this elderly lady experienced was crushing. The volunteer called me and requested to visit the patient twice a week. 
 We adjusted the visit orders on her care plan and the volunteer became like a second daughter to the patient. With the attention from the hospice staff and the great care and love they exhibited the patient actually started to thrive again. She lived for many months beyond what the doctors predicted. The hospice volunteer was integral in her care. It might be said that love saved the day yet again. 

💖The patient had end stage dementia and was non verbal. The volunteers – a mother and her teenage daughter visited the facility as hospice volunteers. On their initial visit with
the patient she was reclining back in a jerry chair. The patient had end stage dementia and was non verbal. The volunteers – a mother and her teenage daughter visited the facility as hospice volunteers. On their initial visit with the patient she was reclining back in a jerry chair. The family had set up a CD boom box in her room because she loved music - especially Frank Sinatra. Since the chair was on wheels they thought that it might be a great idea to put on her favorite music and dance. 

Now dancing with a jerry chair might seem odd but to this precious lady it was wonderful. Her eyes started to shine and a little smile crept across her face. One volunteer swayed the jerry chair and the other volunteer danced a waltz in front of the patient. A sight to behold indeed, but for the patient it brought tears to her eyes. Do we know what she was thinking - no? Do we believe that she was remembered years gone by when she danced with her sweetheart to the tunes of old - Yes! The hospice volunteers approached their visit as an opportunity to make a demented lady happy - if only for a moment. Can we measure the joy she experienced that day? Possibly not - only her and God know for sure what she was thinking that sunny day in March.

💗This much we do know for certain, the hospice volunteers were willing to do whatever it took to bring a little joy into the life of a terminally ill person.💗

Listen, a poem by Karen Robinson

When you listen I am made to feel worthy and special.
As you listen, please lean in towards me so I can see your eyes and if they sparkle?
Listening to me might be hard; I may have trouble with my words...
Listen to me, I have something to say.
I'm dying, could you listen?

Your attention gives me pleasure, I know that you care.
I may look helpless, don't judge, I'm not.
I need to express my discouragement at this weak, sick tent. It frustrates me so...
Could I tell you?
Would you want to know?

When you listen my heart soars in the moment.
The touch of your hand brings comfort and soothes my soul, weary though it is.
Am I irrational, angry, sad or even glad? Do I even know?
Fret not, as I know not myself.
I need you to listen and to touch.

You see my problems cannot be solved.
I NEED your gentle soothing words for they calm my ailing soul.
Others who deny my feelings hurt me. They defeat me.
They listen with judgment, scorn or disdain. 
But YOU Hospice Volunteer!
When you sit and smile my heart wants to melt!

Thank you volunteer!  
You'll never know how much you mean to me!

Volunteers are an integral part of the interdisciplinary team approach to hospice care. They join RN's, LPN's CNA's, Chaplains, Social Workers, and physicians in caring for patients.
Some of the things a Medi Hospice volunteer might assist with include:
·  Reading from a favorite book or the Bible.
· Watch over the patient while the primary caretaker takes a break or runs errands.
· Listen to stories and memories that are meaningful to the patient.
· Support for an overwhelmed caretaker by listening without judgment.
· Using a special talent such as music to bring joy to the heart of the patient and their families.
· Visit patients with certified animals to offer pet therapy. 

Hospice volunteers are very unique individuals who have a deep sense of compassion for those who are terminally ill. They give selflessly to our patients. They hold a hand that is in need of gentle touch. They read a book that tired eyes cannot see. They sit at the bedside bringing a smile and a quiet presence to one who needs both. When there is soup to heat the volunteer prepares; when there is fresh air to breath the volunteer escorts the patient to the window or porch; when the day calls for a joke or poem the hospice volunteer complies. 

They are flexible, punctual, reliable and intuitive.They give from their heart, willingly, openly, without restraint.



I am interested in volunteering. How do I learn more about hospice volunteering opportunities? What training do volunteers need?

Volunteering in hospice is a choice that creates rewards for patients and families. The ultimate surprise is the growth a volunteer develops from learning more about themselves with every visit to their patient. You learn to communicate in ways that increase your own appreciation of life. Your views of daily situations take on a holistic perspective. Nothing will ever be the same in your personal or professional life if you are correctly trained as a hospice volunteer.

  1. Must be 18 or over to volunteer.
  2. Weekend and evening hours are available.
  3. Maximum requirement is two to four hour per week.
  4. Locations will vary.
  5. Personal transportation required.

So would you consider joining others on their last journey? 

We are actively growing our hospice volunteer program and we would like you to know that if you have a desire to become involving in making a difference in the lives of the dying we will give you that opportunity! Medi Hospice is located in Fredericksburg & Manassas Virginia. We have a Volunteer Coordinator who will meet and discuss with you our volunteer opportunities. Should you desire to join our team call during normal business hours and ask for the Volunteer Coordinator.

For volunteer opportunities in 
Fredericksburg or Northern Virginia 
Call Medi Hospice Volunteer Coordinator 
@540-361-7696 or 703-392-7100

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Creating Healthy Boundaries Part 1


Personal  boundaries  are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards him or her and how they will respond when someone steps past those limits.

Why Set Boundaries?
Setting boundaries protects ourselves and others.
With established personal boundaries we respect the boundaries of others, staff and patients.
We are responsible TO others and FOR ourselves
Boundaries define us:    
What IS you and what is NOT you.
Where you END and someone else BEGINS.
What you OWN and have RESPONSIBILITY for.

In sports boundaries maintain limits, fairness and safety.  Going out of bounds can get you in trouble, disqualified or even end your play.  In hospice, boundaries are lines which separate professional behavior from any behavior which (well-intentioned or not) could reduce the benefit of care to patients and families.

The entire hospice team is held accountable for establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries.
What Motivates Hospice Volunteers?


    •  Desire to help or serve others.    
  • Interest in learning.
• Desire to “give back”.
                      • Search for meaning.
              • Respect for human dignity.

Outcome:  Well balanced       


• Need for admiration, appreciation, gratification.
• Need to be needed.
• Desire for power, control in the “helper” role.
• Re-live past experience.
• Therapy from personal loss.
• Already know it all – “been there, done that”.

Outcome:  Imbalanced
  Comparing Relationships

Personal Relationships    

May be forever
Personal choices                    
No preparation           
Mutually centered           
Do I like this person?           

Volunteer Relationships

      Time limited
      Structured within role
      Organization commitment
      Requires preparation
      Patient centered
      Can I support this person?   

Hospice Patients are a Vulnerable Population

• This is a time of intense need.
• They are seeking help, direction and services.
• There are many unknowns.
• Many have no idea what to expect.
• They are susceptible to changing emotions.
• Anticipatory Grief.

Volunteers Represent Hospice
As a result volunteers:

• Have intimate access to patients and families' personal time and space.
• Encounter their need to develop sincere connections.
• Bring your own spirituality, beliefs and lifestyle.
• Must remember hospice brings a team approach vs. an individual role.
1. Avoid thinking you can solve patient/family problems. We cannot “fix” their problems or change their family dynamics.
2. Be aware of crossing the line between professional and personal involvement.
3. Be aware of patient/family dependency on you.
4. Do not give advice or instructions. 
5. Good boundaries enable you to actively and confidently engage with the patient/family.
Know Your Role

Patients often get very close to you very quickly.  If you start moving from the outer circle to the inner circle it is not fair to the patient or to their family.

Look at the next Post to find PART 2!

Creating Healthy Boundaries Part 2

I Know I’m Exceeding My Boundaries When…
• I become stressed over the situation.
• I can’t get the patient out of my mind.
• I feel like I want to control the situation.
• I begin talking to others outside of hospice about my patient and/or family.
• I feel like the patient or caregiver can’t make it without my assistance.
     • I begin changing personal   
        obligations to benefit
        patient/family needs.

 • I begin sharing personal problems/concerns with the patient/family.
When volunteering with a patient/family becomes all consuming!

Other Boundary

• Inappropriate displays of emotions or
  physical contact.
• Pressure to maintain personal
  relationship after professional one ends.
• Desire to change ones beliefs to fit the patient/family.
• Doing personal favors outside of the plan of care.
• Giving or soliciting of funds.
• Disclosure of information regarding other members of the hospice team.
• Receiving expensive or inappropriate gifts.

To Maintain Your Boundaries

Ask Yourself…

• Do I know my role and limits?
• Whose needs am I meeting?
• Am I giving clear messages?
• Do I know when to say “no”?
• Do I know when to say “yes”?
• What would other members of my hospice team say?

For Maintaining 
Professional Boundaries

 Ensure your care is focused solely on 
the patient and families’ health and 
well being.

 Ensuring that you are there only 
as a volunteer (not a friend, 
neighbor, relative, etc.)

 Maintaining a proper appointment and visit system.

 Getting help for yourself when you are in a crisis.

 Consulting with your Volunteer Coordinator about 
difficult situations.

 Refraining from over familiarity. 

What if I am Feeling

• Be upfront and honest about your feelings.
• Never take on a task that you don’t feel you can 
commit to.
• Let us know if you feel uncomfortable.
• Ask for staff support

When To Let Go After The Death Of Your Patient
Bereavement services begin immediately after the death of our patients.  Phone calls, letters, support groups and home visits are offered to the patient’s caregiver or survivor.  It IS appropriate however for the volunteer to:
Make a phone call to the family after the death.
Make a home visit after the death.
Attend the funeral OR watch over the house while the family attends the funeral and/or graveside services. 

    It should be understood at that point bereavement services will take over.

When you help, you see life as weak.
When you fix, you see life as broken.
When you serve, you see life as whole.
Fixing and helping may be work of the ego,
but serving is the work of the soul.
Rachel Naomi Remen