Guest post by commenter PRESCOTT CACTUS. He’ll be around in comments to answer questions about his experience as a hospice volunteer.
I just got my 10 year pin for volunteering with a hospice organization. I’d like to share some of my experiences and if you have any questions please free to ask.
I started being a volunteer dedicated to a specific patient. The usual is four hours a week. Let the spouse have some time away for respite, do chores around their home or sometimes sit, listen and talk a little. We were taught to become a blank chalkboard and let the patient fill it.
My current duty is being a member of the “11th Hour team”. When a patient is deemed within 48 hours of dying the hospice provides an around the clock companion to the patient. You are there to provide comfort to the patient, his family and often the staff of the facility, if the patient has been in a long term care or nursing home for any length of time. Often the patient is alone, most friends are gone or unable to visit. Family is far away or wants to remember gramps the way they were. Sad shit actually. Our programs unofficial motto is “no one dies alone”.
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In between, I have shopped and delivered groceries, done one time visits to patients whose regular volunteer is ill or unable and have filled in doing office work. If your desire is to volunteer at a hospice, there is always something that most everyone can feel comfortable doing, including working in a thrift shop they run.
The most important thing I can share are that there are 2 kinds of hospice. Profit and not for profit. I donate my time to the not for profit. They do get reimbursed thru Medicare, but they are not a profit driven company. Being not for profit allowed my organization to explore and fill many great ideas that a for profit wouldn’t pursue, including the 11th Hour program. They have pet visits, a harp player who serenades patients in palliative care units. (PCU’s) . The difference doesn’t stop and start there. It’s a choice you may have to make and you should consider it an important one.
When is time to get hospice involved? A patient is eligible for hospice care if the natural progression of their disease likely ends their life within 6 months. Once certified as eligible for hospice, Medicare feels that extra care and cost should be available (no death panels – Thanks Oboma!) and that things like oxogen and a hospital bed are provided free of charge. At home visits by doctors, nurses and visitors begins along with having a dedicated social worker to help with loose ends
Sounds great, huh? The problem is that families and patients often don’t want to hear the truth and doctors often have a hard time telling it. Not many people are ready to admit I’m down to 6 months. Unfortunately, patients in their end stage of life provide doctors and hospitals with a shit-ton of money and profit. On average a patient is “on service for just 29 days when they could have been receiving special caring for 6 months.
If you get lucky and live a bit longer than 6 months, don’t worry, as they will reevaluate and can keep you in the program. You can get kicked out. FSM bless him, my Dad has done 180 degree turn-arounds twice and he was taken out of the program 4 years ago and again 2 years ago. He’s still with us and doing pretty good BTW !
Any questions about hospice ?
P.S. I’ve spent a lot of time just talking about hospice and haven’t really mentioned death and what you should know and be prepared for. Another time very soon perhaps ?