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…well, I am a volunteer…..

April 29, 2015

…. Over the years, I have been a volunteer in may ways, for many organizations, in many roles… I have become overvolunteered and needed to reset my time priorities… I have found some experiences deeply rewarding and others deeply frustrating….

some volunteer opportunities have found me and others have been of my choosing.  Currently I am a hospice volunteer… by choice.. This decision was not made lightly, and once made took a good while to implement.  The hospice I chose requires training.

The first training covered general topics, and allowed me to work in non patient settings.  The second set of training was more intense, 2 full days of classroom immersion followed by an interview and acceptance as a volunteer.  At that time I was able to select the areas in which I wished to participate.

I knew from the day I decided to volunteer that I wanted patient contact.  Individual patient contact.

Let me digress…. Hospice is still a fairly new concept in this country, first introduced from England in 1972.  While Hospice care is now a part of medical discussions, patients often arrive in Hospice too late to maximize the benefit.  Hospice care pairs with Palliative care when medical cures are no longer possible.

Palliative care may occur concurrently with treatment of a chronic condition.  Palliative care adds the component of comfort, understanding that suffering is not a requirement, ever.  When my uncle died of lung cancer in 1968, his pain medication was limited and controlled, leaving him with unmanageable and unbearable pain.  We now understand that pain is not a requirement of illness.  Today a person with lung cancer could still be undergoing life extending treatment and be afforded the medication necessary to relieve pain.

Hospice steps in when the patient and family determine that the life extending treatment is more detrimental than beneficial to the life quality of the patient, and not likely to result in either a cure or extended quality of life.  As research continues, we learn that frequently a patient who determines to either stop or not start aggressive medical treatment for a non curable illness, has a longer life, and a better quality of life.

Hospice is focused on what the patient wants to do with their remaining time.  And with that, now to make each day the best day possible.

In Illinois Hospice care can be provided in any setting, at home, in a care facility, within a hospital or at a Hospice Unit.  The goal of the hospice team is to support the patient and family as needed.  To enter Hospice care, a patient must have a diagnosis that is expected to result in death within 6 months.  Many patients exceed that timeline and can be recertified. Often it is the pain management and other support of the Hospice team that allows the patient to have many more Best Days Ever

Hospice is a fully funded Medicare program.  One of the provisions is that a certain percentage of patient contact time must be volunteer based.  The team of doctor, nurse, therapists and chaplain is augmented by volunteers.

I started this post with the intention of telling you about my Hospice experience… but I see that the background has filled my time… So we will leave this as is, and return another day to talk some more about Hospice and volunteering.

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