A hospice volunteer shares her skills and support

The team at Parkview Home Health and Hospice enlists the help of many volunteers, including Sue Bell. We invited Sue to share more about her important role, and what it means to her.

What was your motivation to volunteer?

I am a retired nurse. I spent many years in the ER and ICU setting, and the last eight years of my career were spent working for Parkview Home Health and Hospice. When I retired four years ago, I wanted a role that utilized my skills, fit my passion and gave me freedom, or as much freedom as possible while still meeting the needs of the patient and position. My role isn’t always easy, but it fills a void for families in this journey.

Why were you drawn to hospice care?

Death is not an easy topic. When I first joined the hospice team, I was often teary eyed and emotional when I had to talk about death. It took me awhile to learn the language and be comfortable with the things I needed to discuss. Now that I have my courage, my skill set, my education and, of course, my compassion, I wish to keep sharing as long as I am able.

What does your role entail?

Often families and patients like to chat, and I have the time. I have developed some wonderful relationships and lasting friendships that I cherish. Sometimes families just need a break, and I can sit with a patient so family can leave the home or go get a nap.

I also help with vigil sitting, which is staying at a bedside with a patient during active dying. If there is no family, family is unable to be there, or if family or friends just need a support person, then we are there. If family is not able to be present, I want them to know that their loved one did not die alone.

I also assist with Festival of Trees, an annual fundraiser for the hospice program in Parkview LaGrange and Noble, held every November. It is a big, one-night affair held in Kendallville, and it takes a lot of planning, set up and clean up. The event is possible because of many volunteers and has a history of being a huge success. Funds raised are used to help hospice families. I am, along with many others, quite involved.

What are your favorite ways to help?

I am a person who enjoys the company of others. I like visiting people and I like just listening. I also like to talk, and sometimes I have to keep that in check (and sometimes not).

What does your role mean to you?

It’s a part of who I am. I still have many diverse roles in my life now but my favorites continue to be the ones where I can give back. I have had a blessed life. I have had many gifts and opportunities. I am grateful that I was given the gift of compassion and opportunities to share that.

Is there an experience that stands out to you?

Life is funny. One time I went into a home only to discover we were related, but had never met!

I know that dementia is difficult. One family touched my heart because of how devoted the family member was who was caring for their spouse, who had Alzheimer’s. I watched as this family member cared for and completely gave up their own life. My experience with and understanding of dementia, including knowing what to do and probably more importantly what not to do, allowed this selfless family member to feel confident leaving the home for several hours each week.

What makes the Parkview hospice team so exceptional?

They are compassionate, caring people who echo my beliefs.

What makes this relationship so special to you?

The Parkview staff of caregivers have been very supportive of my role. Some of my relationships go back to when I was still working, but I am also making new connections as I go.

The Parkview volunteer staff have been excellent and made me feel included. They have provided wonderful educational opportunities, been available and flexible to my needs, and even set up social times for volunteers. As volunteers, we’re in a giving role, but being a volunteer at Parkview means the staff gives back to us as well.

 

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