No One Dies Alone, Thanks to Volunteers—Be Your Haven
The diagnosis is terminal. Efforts switch from cure to comfort. It's time for hospice care. Often in the initial conversations with hospice staff, new patients will express their fears. Not wanting to die alone is a one of their biggest concerns.
Be Your Haven, a hospice-care provider in 18 counties of Florida, has set up a program as part of their services called, No One Dies Alone, to provide volunteers to be with patients 24/7 during their last five to ten days. Volunteers may simply be a quiet presence, hold the patient's hand, read aloud, sing softly, or speak reassuring words from time to time as they stay for their four-hour vigil. Volunteers don't have to worry that they are doing the "right" thing to comfort the patient because during those initial meetings, staff has asked patients what they would desire and find soothing.
Michelle Colee, the volunteer coordinator, also provides volunteers with both training and support. Volunteers have a mentor to be with them for their first few times until they indicate they are ready to be on their own with patients.
Most of the volunteers in the Florida program are between 60 and 90 years old, bringing with them a lifetime of understanding and practicing compassion. They return again and again, telling Michelle that they feel they are blessed by the experience.
Other volunteers bring their computer and organizational skills, assisting with the record keeping. Some go out into the community to speak to groups, helping them understand the role of hospice care and the importance of planning related to end-of-life issues. Still other volunteers work in the Haven Attic Stores, taking in donations and reselling them to raise funds for Be Your Haven's services.
"When health becomes a challenge, we will be your haven" is the message of the organization, but it comes alive through caring volunteers whose only "pay" is the blessing they receive.
For more about Be Your Haven or the No One Dies Alone program, visit beyourhaven.org.
Search the internet for hospice organizations in your local area.