Posts Tagged ‘volunteer

Houston Hospice Volunteer of the Year

WP_20150514_11_58_32_Pro_peIt Wouldn’t Be Monday Without Debbie

Eleven-year volunteer, Debbie Hoelscher, has been named volunteer of the year by Houston Hospice. As a nonprofit organization, Houston Hospice relies upon over 300 volunteers to help set the tone for the compassionate care patients and families receive. Since 2003, Debbie Hoelscher has volunteered in both the inpatient care center and in patients’ homes. Volunteer Coordinator, Patsy Piner said, “It wouldn’t be Monday at hospice without Debbie here tending the flowers, tending the patients, and bringing serenity and calmness into our lives.”

Volunteering With Hospice Isn’t For Everyone

About her work in hospice Debbie states, “The families truly appreciate the smallest gift of your time and doing this type of work gives me a great sense of gratefulness.” Debbie also trains incoming volunteers and many have noted her ability to engage and be at ease with patients and their families. Ms. Piner added, “We often say that volunteering with hospice is not for everyone, but Debbie has a gift for this type of work and we are glad she spends her Mondays with us.”

Volunteers are an integral part of nonprofit Houston Hospice’s team; serving patients and families with caring expertise in the Houston Hospice care center, in patients’ homes and in assisted living facilities. To learn more about volunteering at Houston Hospice, call 713-467 7423 or visit www.houstonhospice.org.

-Karla Goolsby, Houston Hospice Communication Specialist

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The Joy of Living as Shared by a Hospice Patient

 

April 10, 2012—Another Hospice volunteer and I sit at the bedside of an animated, talkative 97-year-old African American woman whom I’ll call “Louise.” Her thin face is haloed with a white cotton turban, and her eyes sparkle with good humor. She tells us that she fell in her home and broke a hip, the first broken bone in her long life and her first time having to go to a hospital. She was able to reach the phone to call for help, and she waited quietly lying on the floor until her sister arrived.

 

While the doctors were examining her, they found that Louise had metastasized cancer. Today she reminisces about picking cotton and corn as a child on her family’s riverside farm in the small town of Edna, Texas. Louise never married, but after finishing elementary school, she worked as a housekeeper for a couple who moved north to Chicago. When the husband died, she followed the ailing wife to a retirement community in Florida and cared for her until her death. Nineteen years ago, Louise moved back to Texas to be near her extended family. She lists the names of her siblings and nieces and nephews, and gives us their birth dates. When I asked the date of her own birthday, she boasts, “I’ll turn 98 on April 21.” She says, “People tell me that I have lots of stories to tell.” Joan and I assure her that she surely does. Louise still has a group of friends whom she wants to notify about where she is. Some are in nursing homes, and they still manage to stay in touch.

 

April 17, 2012—Louise is delighted to see me again and asks me to switch off the TV that the nurses have left on for her entertainment. She’d much rather chat and regale me with the same stories she told me the week before.  She is excited about her upcoming 98th birthday party on April 21 and tells me she always hoped she’d live to be 100. When the preacher from her neighborhood Baptist church arrives to pray with her, she treats him with deep respect. I leave them to their prayers and encounter Anne, the social worker in the hallway. She says that Louise is too healthy to stay at the inpatient unit of Hospice, and that paperwork is in motion to have her transferred to another facility.

 

April 24, 2012—I notice a bunch of shiny balloons still inflated on the ceiling in one corner of the room. Louise tells me about her cousins, nieces, nephews and step-sister escorting her in a wheel chair to celebrate her birthday in the courtyard with soup and ice cream and other soft foods “that I can eat with my dentures.” I hear all about the music and presents and laughter, and suddenly Louise is quiet. We both realize that the party’s over and that unless a miracle occurs it’s the last birthday she will celebrate.

 

I ask if she’d like me to read her some psalms. Louise responds, “Whatever you do for me, honey, I accept gratefully.” But before I reach for her Bible, she recites aloud by memory part of Psalm #23 and the entire Lord’s Prayer.  She confides, “I say those words every morning as soon as I’m awake and repeat them at bedtime, when I send prayers to any loved ones who are especially needy.” Louise reminisces about singing spirituals in her Baptist-Methodist farmland church. I sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho and Amazing Grace with her, and she chimes in, with a grin on her emaciated face. Afterwards, Louise admits, “I can’t sing worth a darn, but if someone else is singing, I can’t help but join in. I don’t understand the words to modern songs, but those spirituals bring me right back to my childhood.” Just as I’m leaving the room, a hospice volunteer named Loretta visits with her 4-pound “therapy dog,” Gigi—small and gentle enough to cuddle up next to Louise, who claims to be frightened of big dogs.

 

May 1, 2012—I arrive with my guitar to accompany our spirituals, eager to see Louise, and I’m stunned by her transformation. She is asleep in her bed, without all the pillows that usually prop up her back. Her body looks tiny, and now that her mouth is free of dentures, her face is shrunken. She is breathing so lightly that her chest barely moves. I decide to sing quietly at her bedside. She makes no response, and I hope that the familiar melodies are reaching her on a subconscious level. I realize that once her 98th birthday party has come and gone, and everyone she loves has shown up to honor her, Louise is ready to let go of life. She is tired and doesn’t want to be transferred to a long-term care facility. Silently bidding her farewell, I slip out of the room. I know that it’s likely that this is my last view of her. Louise has given me the gift of her joie de vivre, and I feel grateful to her.

–Houston Hospice volunteer, Ginger Clarkson

Volunteerplayingguitarandsingingtopatient

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