Most Hospice volunteers have been through it themselves
Dealing with a loved one’s impending death is extremely difficult. For those who choose to care for family members who’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can be burdensome.Nondis Lowther of Rifle knows all about taking care of an ailing family member. Her husband of 35 years, Jim, passed away almost three years ago from stomach cancer. Roaring Fork Hospice (RFH) volunteers were there to help the Lowthers during his final three months. Nondis said that the help she received was invaluable and that’s why she later became a Hospice volunteer.”After my involvement with Hospice during my husband’s time, they did so much for me, I just wanted to give something back to the organization.” Lowther said. “I volunteer for many organizations, but Hospice is about giving time to the patients and the caregivers. It’s all about care.”RFH is a nonprofit division of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs. This year marks the 19 anniversary of the program, which started in Aspen. And a large part of hospice is the volunteers.Lowther’s volunteered, usually one day a week, for the past year. In that time she’s helped a number of terminal patients with all sorts of daily stuff, and made a few friends, too.
“We let them set the tone of what they want us to do,” Lowther said. “The main point is to give the care givers time to get away.”Lowther said that she sometimes does light house work for the patients, dishes, cleaning or whatever they want. Sometimes, if they want to take a nap, she’ll just read a book or a newspaper. Just being there to give the family a break is a big help.”It’s important to be a good listener,” she said. “Some of them just want to talk about their life, things they’ve done, so I listen.”Lowther said that helping others through Hospice has helped her through her own grieving process as well.”It’s something that makes me feel good,” she said. “Well being and doing something good for someone else. Showing them compassion and love.”Lowther is a retired school teacher and volunteering is something that takes up a good part of her time. She still volunteers at the local elementary schools in Rifle on Tuesdays and with Hospice whenever she has time. It’s flexible for volunteers and is set up on a need basis, which Lowther likes. But helping others through a difficult time is what she likes most about the program.
Sean Jeung, Volunteer Coordinator for RFH, said that nearly all of the volunteers have had some type of previous experience with hospice.”Absolutely,” Jeung said. “I don’t think that there is anyone on the (volunteer) list that hasn’t been touched by hospice.”Jeung herself said that’s the same reason she became involved with the organization. Jeung’s mother passed away around five years ago. Her experience too, brought her to hospice.Currently there are about 35 compliant volunteers for RFH and at least another 35 that have gone through or are currently going through the 15-hour training program. The training consists mostly of talking to the volunteers about death and how to deal with the patients. Jeung agreed that being a good listener is the most valuable part of being a volunteer.”You just don’t realize how valuable sitting by the bedside listening, holding their hand, brushing their hair is. It’s those little things that really make the biggest difference,” Jeung said.Having gone through the experience gives the volunteers a first-hand account of what is expected, and how important their time is.
“When you’ve been through it yourself you understand the need for what they do,” Lowther said.Contact John Gardner: 945-8515, ext. firstname.lastname@example.orgPost Independent, Glenwood Springs, Colorado CO
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