Volunteers Can Help in Many Ways

You may be wondering how you would find a volunteer useful.  Some of the services they provide include:
·       Staying with patients to give respite breaks to caregivers
·       Driving patients to doctor’s appointments
·       Assisting patients and families with household chores
·       Doing errands
·       Taking homebound patients on outings
·       Sitting with a patient who does not want to be alone
·       Reading to the patient
·       Listening to their story
·       Helping patients and families record history though writing, pictures, and taping
·       Playing music
·       Helping with creative projects
·       Helping the families in their bereavement
·       Being there

The Volunteer Training

The comprehensive training for patient care volunteers includes: understanding diseases and conditions, understanding death and dying, understanding bereavement and the grief process, how to give a patient care and comfort, listening and other communication skills, how to alleviate stress for the patient and family, and the history and philosophy of the program.

Comments from a Veteran Patient Care Volunteer
“I believe there are certain things in life we are called to do.  My work as a patient care volunteer is one of them.  I was with both my parents when they died—my mother in 1984 and my dad ten years later.  Palliative and Supportive Care (then Hospice Care of Nantucket) played an important role in my dad’s final weeks. My dad and I talked about what was happening.  We grieved the loss of things we’d planned for the future—a trip to Ireland or seeing more Broadway shows.  Still, we were grateful for the gift of time to say goodbye.  Not long after he died, the opportunity to train as a patient care volunteer was offered.  I signed on.  The care and comfort I provided my parents felt like the most natural thing in the world.  Volunteering feels the same way.
I prepare myself prior to a visit with a patient or family member with mindful breathing and a simple prayer of compassionate intent.  Discovering and validating a patient’s fear is what’s important. That’s one of the unique advantages of being a volunteer.  Patients open up, not so much about their illness or symptoms, but the emotional aspect of their experience.
One of my first volunteering experiences was with a woman who confided her fear of being alone when she died.   Given that information, the care team created a plan that assured her constant companionship with family, friends and volunteers.  It made all the difference in the world.  Her whole demeanor changed—as though she could finally exhale.  Several weeks later, she died peacefully with her son at her side.”

-Michel Magee, volunteer since 1997

If you think you or a family member might benefit from volunteer assistance,
please call (508) 825-8325 or email pascon@partners.org.

Funded by the Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket Foundation, the Palliative & Supportive Care Program is operated as a department of the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which is an affiliate of Massachusetts General Hospital, and a member of Partners HealthCare. Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket is a specialized health care program dedicated to providing excellent physical, psychological, social, and spiritual care to persons with life-threatening illness and their families.

A Partnership in Caring

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