Hospice: Volunteers wanted to help patients, caregivers

Published 1:06 am Friday, July 8, 2016

Volunteers Barbara Holloway and Mattie Freeney along with SouthernCare Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jodie Williams. Volunteers are needed. Kendra Majors/Star-News

Volunteers Barbara Holloway and Mattie Freeney along with SouthernCare Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Jodie Williams. Volunteers are needed.
Kendra Majors/Star-News

It is often said that volunteers are love in motion.

That’s what SouthernCare Hospice is working toward with its volunteer program.

Volunteer coordinator Jodie Williams said that there are many areas in which volunteers can help.

“We have a patients and family program, where they sit with patients so that their caregivers may run errands or just simply visit with them,” she said.

They currently have eight volunteers.

Two of the volunteers – Barbara Holloway and Mattie Freeney – sit with patients once a week to give the caregiver a break.

Williams said there is a huge need for men who are willing to help cut grass and do outside chores for hospice patients.

“They don’t give meds or do any hands-on care,” she said. “This is strictly a support system for the patients and the caregivers.”

There are also opportunities for people to volunteer to help with community events such as ice cream socials and bingo at Andalusia Manor, health fairs and job fairs and helping do administrative work and put together packets and gift bags.

They also have a bereavement department in which volunteers mail sympathy cards and visit with those who lost loved ones.

They also need people who can make items such as blankets, hats, pillows, pillowcases, etc.

Freeney said that she is following in the footsteps of her mother.

“All my life, my mom – this is what she did – went around and visited people,” she said. “She would help cook. It was something I grew up with to help people who can’t do for themselves.”

Freeney said volunteering is very rewarding for her.

“I get sung to, taught how to cook, history lessons,” she said. “It’s very rewarding to just sit and talk. You never know where the conversation will go. It’s our job to love them. They just want to someone to love on them.”

Freeney said a lot of people think of hospice and say, “Ah, I can’t do that.”

“It’s not like watching someone die,” she said. “It’s watching them be happy.”

Williams said it’s true that most people have six months to a year to live with their life-limiting illness.

“Most of our patients have a variety of illnesses,” she said.

Freeney’s family understands the toll caring for a loved one can take on the caregiver.

“My mom had Alzheimer’s,” she said. “I remember how tired my dad was.”

Holloway also has been the caregiver.

She took care of her father for months before she lost him to lung cancer.

Then, her mother had a massive stroke and she took care of her.

“I set her up a room in my house,” she said. “I had to turn her every two hours. I used to beg God for two hours so I could go to church.”

Holloway said she had a vision to start a support group.

She said she shared the vision with some others at a Wednesday night church service, but her vision wasn’t the heart of others.

Then she was able to help a co-worker of her husband’s whose wife was suffering an illness.

She sat with her all day long three days a week to help take the burden off.

“I sat with her until she died,” she said. “Caregivers go through so much.”

All that eventually led her to become a volunteer at SouthernCare.

Williams said the volunteer program is perfect for college students who are planning a career in the medical field.

“It can be a learning experience for them,” she said. “It looks good on a resume to have volunteer work in the health care field.”

Emily Yard of SouthernCare said that a lot of people do not realize all the things hospice can help with, and the earlier they are exposed to the families, the more they can help.

“It gives us time to get in and meet families,” she said. “So they are more familiar with us.”

She said that hospice can do more for the families than home health care can.

“Home health care keeps them alive,” she said. “We keep them comfortable. We can help with medicine and supplies.”

She said they have an excellent team of volunteers.

“We couldn’t do it without them,” she said.