Hospice Volunteers — Healthcare Volunteer
Hospice of Citrus County - HPH Hospice
“I get back so much more than I give.”
That is the consensus of a group of Citrus County residents who represent this year’s Healthcare Heroes awardees for Healthcare Volunteer. They are the Hospice volunteers of Citrus County.
Working either with Hospice of Citrus County or HPH Hospice, these volunteers do a wide variety of jobs that include:
• Honoring veterans
• Bringing therapy dogs to visit patients
• Sitting with patients during their final hours of life
• Giving family caregivers a break
• Helping with bereavement activities
• Calling families
• Knitting, quilting and other crafts
• Operating a food bank
• Helping to keep the office organized
“Hospice is about quality of life,” added Jackie Kendrick, HPH Hospice CEO. “Each touch by a volunteer increases our patient’s quality of life. They are so selfless they don’t even consider what they do for our patients and their families.”
“Both my parents got hospice care from HPH,” said Sandi Workman, who has been a hospice volunteer since 2006. She has served as a patient respite volunteer, who sits with patients so family caregivers can get a break, an office volunteer and helps to coordinate bereavement events for children.
“Being a family member of a hospice recipient makes you more aware of all the opportunity this hospice offers, and not just for the patient,” she said. “They cared for my mom, but also for me and my family, always asking ‘what do you need, how are your kids doing.’ By coming here, I know that what I do makes a difference.”
Sandi’s husband, Rick Workman, became an HPH Hospice volunteer one year later. As an “11th Hour” volunteer, Workman sits with patients in their final hours of life.
“When someone is getting close to passing, you’re trying to give him relief and talk to him about something that’s comforting to him, to offer compassion,” he said. “I go in and hold someone’s hand. I ask them things from years ago. It takes them back, relieves their minds.”
Lois Thomas has been a hospice volunteer for 10 years. She works with HPH Hospice’s “We Honor Veterans” program and makes weekly “tuck in” calls every Thursday to patients and caregivers.
“My parents grew older and never asked for help before they passed away. I enjoy doing this, it’s a way of giving back,” she said. “I make the calls to make sure the families have enough supplies and medications for the weekend. Some want to talk and I’m happy to listen.”
Sharon Paup also has been an HPH hospice volunteer for 10 years. She works in the office doing data entry. She also recently started an in-house food pantry.
“I’ve volunteered all my life so for me to stay somewhere for 10 years means something,” she said. “Our staff and volunteers donate food items to the food pantry. If they, or a family member, sees that a patient is lacking for something, they can put in a request and we can give that patient and family a few days of food.”
Peter MacDonald came to HPH as a family member, visiting his wife in the hospice unit. He would bring their dog, Maggie May. Now a certified therapy dog, Maggie — and MacDonald — make patient visits to homes and nursing homes and participate in We Honor Veterans activities.
“When my wife was here I brought Maggie for a visit. The nurses and aides insisted I bring her back. So we became volunteers,” he said. MacDonald and Maggie also volunteer at Jessie’s Place, a child advocacy center in Lecanto.
“It’s not me, it’s the dog that brings joy to people,” he said. “Maggie is a real joy; when she first meets people, she sniffs and offers kisses. The kids at Jessie’s Place just love her. Maggie is a busy girl; she keeps me from vegetating.”
Citrus County is home to a large number of war veterans, many of whom are nearing the end of life. It’s no surprise that local hospices work hard to honor these veterans for their service.
“I was recruited by someone in the We Honor Veterans program,” said Steve Gardner, himself a veteran. “I hesitated because I thought it would be depressing, then I went to the first recognition event. I was hooked for life.
“I want veterans to at least have someone say thank you for your service. It means so much to them. I recently met a man who served in the Marine Corps in World War II. He was on Iwo Jima and saw the flag go up. How often will something like that happen in my lifetime?”
Bob Scott, another former veteran, volunteers with We Honor Veterans and as an 11th Hour volunteer.
“I take my time with the patients and just listen. Because I’m also a veteran, they’ll open up to me and talk about their experiences. Family members will say, ‘I didn’t know he did that.’ They can relate to another veteran, we’ve been there,” he said.
“Anything I can do to help these people, I will do,” Scott added. “It’s the best job in the world.”