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Myths of being a hospice volunteer

“I don’t know how you can do that each week.”   “I bet it is so sad to volunteer at Big Bend Hospice.” These and similar comments are often made to the wonderful volunteers at Big Bend Hospice (BBH).  Many people think that being a BBH volunteer means constantly being around people who are dying.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are so many ways to volunteer at BBH.  The most common is being a patient and family volunteer.  These volunteers often provide respite for the caregiver.  Taking care of someone with a terminal illness can be exhausting, both mentally and physically.  Patient and family volunteers offer caregivers an opportunity to run errands, have lunch with friends or simply take a much-needed nap.  Volunteers sitting with patients often read or either watch television; sometimes the patient just wants someone to be there to listen.

Volunteers are also available to help staff do what they do best.  Administrative volunteers help with filing, copying or data entry.  They assist with doing office tasks that allow staff members to focus more on patient care.  Volunteers help with special projects or answer phones.  Comfort Callers volunteer once a week to call patients to see how they are doing.  This courtesy call is a great way to ensure the patient and family are getting everything they need, while the volunteer provides feedback to the staff.

Fundraising and special events are other opportunities for people to volunteer with BBH.  Events require a lot of help.  There are mailings, decorating and set up and clean up. BBH’s annual Tree of Remembrance (TOR) uses volunteers to help offer those in the community a way to honor and remember those they’ve lost.  Volunteers help tag ornaments that go on a tree or answer any questions about TOR at the kiosk in Governor’s Square Mall.

A few years ago, BBH created a program to honor those patients who were identified as veterans.  Volunteers who want to thank those who served to protect our freedom perform valor ceremonies.  The ceremony includes patriotic music, letters of appreciation and presentation of afghans, which are also made by volunteers.  The ceremony concludes with the highest honor a veteran can give a fellow veteran – a salute.  This program incorporates volunteers, who are veterans and non-veterans, working together to honor this special group of individuals.

When it comes to volunteer opportunities, BBH really thinks out of the box.  Volunteers come in every Monday to arrange flowers or make quilts that are distributed by staff to patients.   Pet therapy volunteers are certified to bring their trained animals to the Margaret Z. Dozier Hospice House.  The Dozier House also has greeters who volunteer as liaisons for those visiting patients.   Every Tuesday, volunteers can be found at the Dozier House serving teas and treats to guests as part of Tea Time Tuesday.

Finally, there is the Vigil Volunteer.  This is the volunteer most think of when they think of hospice volunteers.  Sometimes called the “Eleventh Hour” volunteer, they go through additional training to prepare themselves to be with an actively dying patient.  These volunteers are there so that nobody has to die alone.

At Big Bend Hospice, volunteers are never referred to as “just” a volunteer.  They are part of the team helping those going through a difficult time.  Being a hospice volunteer brings a sense of joy and peace that is hard to explain.  It definitely is not sad to be a Big Bend Hospice volunteer!

For more information about volunteering at Big Bend Hospice, please contact Sharon Davidson, Volunteer Department Manager at (850) 878-5310.

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