November is National Hospice Month. My journey as a hospice volunteer began in the early 1980s when the nonprofit Hospice of Shiawassee was formed. Today, that same hospice is still going strong in Shiawassee County. The name has changed to Memorial Healthcare Hospice. It is one of the oldest hospices in the state of Michigan.
Memorial Healthcare Hospice is also one of the few hospices in our state that has trained hospice volunteers that are part of the hospice team serving families. Trained volunteers receive continual training and support throughout the year at monthly meetings. Monies raised by the fundraising aspect of the hospice, supports the volunteer program.
Not all trained volunteers work directly with a patient. Volunteers are needed for office help, fundraising, errand running for families, etc.
Those in terminal illness facing death and their families often have great anxiety and fear. The family is very tired and in need of care and rest. Hospice helps provide that care.
Hospice volunteering is a gift you give to yourself. I have found that I have received back much more than I have given to the program and families we serve. Lifelong friends are formed and treasured and not forgotten. Through working with death and dying, I have learned more about life and living it to the fullest. I get back 100 times more than I give. It has been a gift to me.
I have been present with many families through the years at the time of death of their loved one. It was a privilege and honor for me to be there at that special time. I will never forget them.
Maureen Gilna, Memorial Healthcare Hospice Volunteer
This poem was written by the wife of our hospice patient, especially for our Memorial Healthcare Hospice. I was the volunteer for her husband. I had the honor of being with her at the time of her death.
Until I needed Hospice,
‘Twas just a word for me
The doctor said, “I will call them, they can help out, you will see.
Your husband has been ill so long, you know he cannot live,
But you can keep him home with you, with the help Hospice can give.
They will strive to keep him comfortable
and free from needless pain,
The volunteers will let you know when they will be back again.
Twenty-four hours their service runs for seven days a week,
Tender loving care on tap if you will only seek.
They all work with the doctor and with the patient’s family,
So that when your loved ones time has come, he may day with dignity.”
And I say, “God bless Hospice,
they were there with me all the way,
Giving comfort, reassurance
I could count on day or night.