I started the training program to become a Family Care Giver with Hospice of Central New York during my first year of law school. The college encouraged students to get involved with community service, and I immediately knew where I wanted to devote my time. I had recently lost two family members who I was very close with. As a young adult, I struggled with how to deal with those losses and how to sort out my own feelings about death. The training program helped me to understand the different ways people cope with death and how to speak with patients who are dying, and I was also forced to confront my own uncertainties about death. Most importantly I was educated on all the incredible services that Hospice offers to patients and their families, many of which I had no prior knowledge of.
After completing the training program, I jumped right into volunteering. Most of the patients I visited were residents in area nursing homes. Even if the patient was sleeping or incapacitated, I knew I was providing a valuable service just by having a presence. After leaving a patient, whether the visit was for 10 minutes or an hour, I always felt fulfilled and at peace for doing one small thing to help one person or one family.
The most rewarding volunteer experience I had was when I was finishing up my last semester of school and getting ready to study for the bar. I was asked to visit a patient who was a retired attorney. For the next several weeks I would go visit him, and he would ask me questions from my bar review flashcards or he would read and edit a practice essay I had drafted. He was tough and challenged me. I could never tell who got more out of those visits, me for having the opportunity to meet and learn from such a brilliant man prior to his passing or him for having a student eager to soak up every word of advice and expertise he could share. I know that for those couple of hours a week he was not thinking about his impending death. We simply enjoyed each other’s company. I will always be thankful to Hospice for giving me that experience.
Flash forward eight years and I am now a member of the Hospice Foundation Board. I understand even more the impact the organization has on the community and how many of the services provided could not be accomplished without all of the volunteers who have the same passion I do, to help those who need a little extra support in their final days.
I am so proud to say that I am a very small part of a remarkable organization serving my neighbors here in Central New York, that strives not only to provide quality end-of-life care but also empowers patients to live with dignity. I would encourage anyone who has even the smallest interest in getting involved to attend the training program and see for yourself how rewarding the experience can be. Call the volunteer office at 315-634-1100 for more information.