Fill out application…√
Attend two days of training…√
Accept assignment to be a Family Service Volunteer…√
The patient was an elderly woman and my services were requested so that her live-in caregiver could do the marketing or run errands for about 1.5 hours each week. I was told to bring along something to read, as the woman would likely doze on and off while I was there.
Nervous? Yes indeed! My years of experience first as a psychiatric social worker and later as an elementary school teacher along with raising two children of my own flew out the window. Punctuality is important to me so in the interest of being on time, I was about 20 minutes early. So, I drove around (and around) the neighborhood.
Both the caregiver and the patient were kind, soft-spoken women. The caregiver showed me all of the important things: the DNR and who to call in an emergency. The patient was situated in her chair, a beverage by her side.
Right after the caregiver left, I chatted a bit with the patient and then she said she was ready to go to sleep, which she did. She continued to sleep for the next hour and half rousing briefly several times.
Overall the visit was pretty easy, nothing dramatic, not exciting. It was like sitting in my own home reading a book (except for knowing I was responsible for this lovely lady) and I was not responsible for anything else.
But, the best part occurred when the caregiver returned home, a bit out of breath from making several trips from the car to the home with groceries. In response to my report of the calm morning, she said, “I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to go to the store and know I don’t have to worry about anything.”
I mused over these thoughts as I drove home. Caring for someone who is a hospice patient is a huge responsibility. I likened it to caring for a young child, whether our own or not. Just as a parent’s thoughts are never far from the well being of their child, the caregiver’s concerns are also focused upon the patient. Enabling the caregiver to leave the patient and complete necessary errands without worry is a fine way to volunteer my time to others.
-by Elizabeth W., Volunteer