Giving at life’s end helps hospice volunteers receive |

Giving at life’s end helps hospice volunteers receive

Heidi Rice
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs CO Colorado

For Nondis Lowther of Rifle, being a volunteer for Hospice of the Valley, is a way of giving back to people who helped her when her husband was dying a little more than four years ago.

Joanne Boysen of New Castle hasn’t used the services of Hospice of the Valley, but as a volunteer, says she gets back from her hospice patients every bit that she gives.

The women are two of many Hospice of the Valley volunteers, who serve the needs of dying patients throughout the valley from Aspen to Parachute. And a new hospice volunteer training session is about to begin in Rifle on Tuesday, Jan. 19, at Grand River Hospital District.

“I’d say about 99 percent of our volunteers have been touched by hospice,” said Sean Jeung, chaplain and volunteer coordinator for Hospice of the Valley. “Or sometimes they [volunteer] because they’re curious.”

The duties of a hospice volunteer can be varied. It can range from holding a patient’s hand and listening to them talk, perusing through photo albums and memories, relieving family members or caregivers and giving them a break or by simply sitting in the room with the patient and being there.

“Most of the time, it’s being company to the patient while the primary caregiver or family members needs a respite to go to church, the doctor or grocery shopping,” Jeung said. “One of the things we recognize in hospice is how important it is for caregivers to take care of themselves.

While hospice volunteers are not allowed to dispense medications, they can do things like read to patients, brush their hair, rub their feet or help them write a letter, Jeung said.

“They can help them write a life review or do some light housekeeping, because oftentimes the patient is asleep, she said. “Or they can do things to help the caregiver like doing the dishes, the laundry, mowing the lawn or shovel sidewalks. Anything that is a daily activity. When someone you love is dying, your whole world gets turned inside out.”

Lowther, who has been a volunteer for the past four years, utilized hospice for three months when her husband was dying. She firmly believes in the mission of hospice.

“I’m a strong believer of the hospice mission to provide compassion and dignity at end of life care,” Lowther said. “It’s a great addition to the community. And if someone needs to do errands and needs someone to stay with the patient, I do that a lot.”

She also has some ladies she visits in the local nursing home at least once a week.

“I either chat or try to be a good listener,” Lowther said. “You want to make sure they know that they’re not alone – there’s someone there to give them support and comfort.”

Boysen, who has been a hospice volunteer for more than a year and sings in a choir to hospice patients, said that the work not only benefits the patients, but gives her an enormous amount of personal satisfaction and has also helped her not be afraid of the dying process.

“I wanted to do it because people at that time in their life seem to get their priorities in order,” Boysen said. “It just brings out the best in you. It’s given me a lot of insight. I’ve never had a patient that was not at peace with the process. I’ve not had anyone die at hospice but I had a good friend die. You see the life beating within the person and all of a sudden, the spirit leaves the body.”

Boysen said the experience as a volunteer has given her back everything that she has given and she encourages people to take the training and give whatever time they can.

“Anybody who does it will have a better understanding and live a better life than they do now,” Boysen said earnestly.

Lowther echoes those sentiments.

“I’ve met some interesting people and you can learn a lot of stuff meeting new people between the patients, the other volunteers and the families,” she said. “It’s like anything else when you volunteer – it makes you feel good.”

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