What you should know about hospice

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What is hospice?

Hospice is a unique component in end-of-life care, focusing on the quality of a patient's life, giving a patient dignity until the end. The focus of care is about maximizing the patient's comfort in his or her home, including private residences, group homes and skilled nursing facilities.

Who is a "typical" hospice patient?

The one thing all hospice patients have in common is a terminal illness with a life expectancy of six months or less. Patients may be of any age and may have any illness; many are cancer patients but other common illnesses are end-stage heart, lung, liver and kidney disease, Alzheimer's and dementias, as well as neurological diseases.

Many hospice patients live a number of months after admission to hospice. They may be fairly active and have a lot of life left to live in their remaining days.

What kinds of things do hospice patient volunteers do?

Patient volunteers are a crucial piece of the hospice approach to care. They work in tandem with the professional team of physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and aides. Volunteers provide companionship to the patient and allow family members and caregivers opportunities for needed breaks.

Each patient-volunteer relationship is unique. Help may include visiting, reading and just being present. Some volunteers have inventoried photos, re-potted prized violets, accompanied a client to the movies and organized tea parties.

What training is involved?

No specific medical experience or training is necessary to be a hospice patient volunteer. Good volunteers are compassionate listeners and have a desire to work with individuals at this unique time of life.

Our volunteers are screened and trained before they are sent on their first patient assignment. Training is offered online and prospective volunteers can go at their own pace.

Walla Walla Community Hospice provides continuing training and support for its volunteers. Patient volunteers are welcome to attend staff training sessions and periodic volunteer training and support sessions are held as well.

How are patient and volunteers matched up?

Every attempt is made to make a good match of personalities, geographic location and hours the volunteer is available.

What time commitment is required?

Because of the resources invested in training and screening a volunteer, Walla Walla Community Hospice seeks a one-year commitment at minimum, bearing in mind there may not be a patient involved the entire time. When assigned a patient, a volunteer would see a patient at least one hour a week; actual hours are dependent on the patient-volunteer relationship.

What other volunteer opportunities are available with Walla Walla Community Hospice?

WWCH utilizes volunteers in capacities other than patient volunteers. Volunteers also help in office administration, fundraising events, maintenance, medical supplies and other ways.

Laurie Klicker is marketing director of Walla Walla Community Hospice

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