A diagnosis of terminal illness can be devastating for a family, but there are special teams of people who can help. The IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital Hospice is one of those teams, and they are looking for volunteers.
Abbie Guthrie, volunteer coordinator for the Ball Memorial Hospital Hospice, said the hospice philosophy is one based on improving quality of life, rather than curing an individual.
“They’re really, with hospice, providing comfort and symptom control as opposed to curative types of treatments with patients,” Guthrie said.
Hospice care is care for a sick or terminally ill individual that takes place in their home rather than in a hospital setting, and may include emotional and spiritual care in addition to symptom and pain management. The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization reported that in 2013 between 1.5 and 1.6 million people received hospice care services.
Most volunteers in the hospice center are retired individuals, and can take on a variety of responsibilities to help both in the hospital and a patient’s home.
More information about volunteering can be found here or by calling 765-747-4273.
“There are office volunteers who just help support the department by doing different types of office work,” Guthrie said. “Then we have the caregiving volunteers that go into the patient homes, and provide companionship either for the patient or the primary care giver.”
Inside the patient’s home, volunteers may help with light housekeeping, cooking, running errands for the patient or patient’s primary caregiver or simply providing friendship, with the goal of providing a better end of life for the individuals involved.
“They can help a patient and their family have what I would say is a good death, one where they are able to be in their home at the time of death,” Guthrie said. “Many people would prefer to do that as opposed to dying in a hospital or another location.”
Sherrie Anderson has been volunteering for a year at the hospice, and strongly recommends volunteering to anyone who has the time.
“My brother-in-law was going through hospice at the time, and something just told me that I needed to check into that,” Anderson said. “After my brother-in-law passed away, I contacted the hospice people and said, ‘I think I want to volunteer.’”
Anderson said she has formed many friendships throughout her time volunteering, and has become close to patients and their families alike.
“I hope that I give them as much as they give me,” Anderson said. “I get to hear all their stories. They love to tell the stories about when they met their husband, and raising their children and stuff.”
Anderson also said her patients have helped her learn valuable life lessons.
“You just learn so much, to focus on someone else besides yourself all the time,” Anderson said. “That’s the biggest gift you get I think, learning to focus on someone else’s needs. It just opens up the world to you.”
Currently, there are few young volunteers in the hospice program, but Guthrie said she thinks younger volunteers would be beneficial to the patients.
“Occasionally we have younger patients that they would be able to connect with a little bit better if they were with a younger individual,” Guthrie said. “I would love to get some younger people involved.”
To qualify to volunteer you must be at least 18 years of age, undergo a criminal background check and be willing to devote about four hours a week to volunteering, for preferably a year. Volunteers also undergo 16 hours of training before beginning duties.