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Yolo Hospice: Volunteers are inspired by hospice patients

By From page A8 | August 17, 2014

Many are drawn to become hospice volunteers because they experienced firsthand the care and compassion shown to their families by volunteers. A volunteer joined Yolo Hospice after seeing her father and cousin benefit from hospice services.

Our patient care volunteers are valued members of the Yolo Hospice team, offering care and support to patients and their families.

Our volunteers are often not a newcomer to the medical field, having spent decades providing care in their chosen field. We often hear despite experience and having assisted hospice patients, they still learn something from each individual they serve.

Members of our community are often surprised that patients are eligible for hospice with a diagnosis other than cancer.

One patient was a very independent 95 years old who still lived alone. Needing a wheelchair and help to get dressed was difficult for her to accept. Despite her declining health, her love of music remained strong, and anywhere there was live music, that’s where she wanted to be. Her volunteer took her out to a music in the park event. Her volunteer said, “She danced in her wheelchair while everyone around her smiled. This was such a pleasure for me to see the joy we were able to provide.”

Another patient, BJ was losing her appetite and getting weaker, but struggling to keep doing the things she loved, including caring for how she looked. As a younger, healthier woman, she took pride in her well-groomed appearance, giving herself manicures and pedicures. By the time our volunteer came into her life, those tasks were beyond her ability. So her volunteer took BJ out for a pedicure on her birthday. In the middle of the pedicure, BJ fell asleep in her chair with a big grin on her face. “It was heartwarming to see her enjoyment.”

A third patient was frail and living on Ensure. She was an artist and savored color, shape and beauty in everything around her. Our volunteer helped her to continue enjoying life; they went shopping, read books on art and visited galleries and our patient enjoyed it all. Our volunteer reflected, “It has been enlightening for me to meet these wonderful women. They were in declining health, but still highly functioning and continuing to want the most out of life, and to do the things they want to do. Their zest for living is inspirational.”

Yolo Hospice cares for and supports patients with an array of conditions, which include dementia, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. Medicare is the federal agency that determines the standards for hospice care. Some people, as they approach the end of life, develop multiple serious chronic-health problems, which together contribute to declining ability to care for themselves and diminishing quality of life. Healthcare personnel, doctors, family and friends who recognize the decline can call Yolo Hospice to help support the patient and their loved ones.

“We can help people get the support they need when a serious or critical illness significantly impacts their lives,” said Jody Norton, RN, CHPN, and director of Patient Care Services at Yolo Hospice. “When you’re ill with one disease, it can lower your resistance to others, and fighting one disease can run down your body so that other bodily systems aren’t working as they should. Multiple illnesses are then active in your body and can lead to a general decline.”

There is a misconception that hospice services are only available when a patient is very near the end of life. No matter what illnesses patients are experiencing, Yolo Hospice’s goal is to help them live life to the fullest and celebrate their lives and loves. Our volunteer’s interaction with these women is one way the Yolo Hospice team supports patients’ desire to remain active within their capabilities. Patient care volunteers make a real difference in the lives of patients and families. And they will tell you, the patients also make a difference in the lives of the volunteers.

You can become a patient care volunteer or ask about other types of volunteer activities by calling or emailing Anne-Marie Flynn, volunteer services manager, at 530-758-5566 or [email protected] Information about Yolo Hospice services is available at our website, www.yolohospice.org. We are your hospice, always available and dedicated to assisting with information about resources in our community.

Cynthia Wolff

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