Compassion is the key to being a hospice volunteer, according to Kathy Vanaria of Newburgh, and she knows that from both sides of the hospice equation.
“We had compassion when we were going through a situation like that; when you don’t know what you don’t know. It was hospice that made the difference,” Kathy told me.
“The hospice team came in and improved the quality of life for not only for my stepfather but for our entire family.”
Kathy has been a Hospice of Eastern Maine volunteer since 2008, and HOEM needs more people to make that commitment.
The fall training sessions are 5:30-9 p.m. on six consecutive Tuesdays, beginning Oct. 12 and ending Nov. 16, all at Eastern Maine Medical Center Healthcare Mall, 885 Union St., Bangor.
Wayne Melanson, volunteer manager of HOEM, reports there is a serious need for caring people living within a 25-mile radius of Bangor to become hospice volunteers.
Prospective volunteers can request an application packet by calling 973-8269 or e-mailing email@example.com. Applications and an interview are required before Oct. 8, and the class is limited to 16 people.
Recalling her experience as the recipient of hospice service, Kathy said she “felt an urge to do something along this line.”
“I prayed about it and asked God to be very blunt about it. Then I saw Wayne on television asking for volunteers and being very blunt” about HOEM’s need for volunteers.
That was it. Blunt enough. Kathy signed up.
“I can’t put into words what you gain from being a hospice volunteer,” Kathy said.
“It’s an incredible feeling that you get, having helped people in this situation.”
When asked why someone should become a hospice volunteer, Kathy said, “I would tell them it is one of the greatest experiences a person can have.
“It is an honor to be welcomed into a home of a family going through something like this.”
She describes her experiences working with individuals nearing the end of life as “being like a friend. I can sit by them and hold their hand.”
“I can read them books. I’ve been known to take mine on outings to Moosehead or to the coast. Whatever it takes.
“And you get to see the good side of people, too. You find out that there is still good in the world.
“In taking my friends on an outing, like I’ve done, you tend to see people going out of their way to help” with something as simple as holding open a door, she said.
Kathy was in military intelligence during Operation Desert Storm until she received a medical discharge. She no longer works outside the home after a serious automobile accident, but that allows her the time to have a flexible volunteer career.
She is able to visit any time of day or night, but that is not necessarily the case for others.
“Wayne is very good about matching his volunteers with families,” Kathy said.
“He gets the information about what the family dynamics are and what the needs are and assigns volunteers to fit those needs.”
Hospice volunteers also visit nursing homes, take mobile patients outside “to get some fresh air” or offer respite to family members “who sometimes are afraid to leave the person’s side,” she said.
Seeing the one you are caring for through to the end of life is all a process, Kathy said.
When your hospice friends die, she said, “it tends to be with a feeling of peace, and you know you have helped to give them a good death. You have helped them go peacefully.”
HOEM, a program of Bangor Area Visiting Nurses and part of Eastern Maine HomeCare, has been providing hospice services since 1981.
For more information, call the number above.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; firstname.lastname@example.org; 990-8288.