Hospice volunteers sought

Published 7:10 pm Sunday, November 14, 2021

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CMH Community Hospice volunteers are special people who choose to be there for others during the most difficult time of their lives. Our team of nurses, social workers, doctors, certified nursing assistants, chaplains and volunteers enhance patient lives through symptom management, comfort control and letting patients be themselves for as long as they can.

It takes a special person to be there for a person with a life-limiting illness.

Peggy Donochod

“Our volunteers play a huge role in that they bring their own special skillset to our service,” Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Kuehl explained. “Over the years we have had volunteers that cut grass, cooked meals, were TV buddies, went fishing, recorded stories, listened over coffee or were a presence so a loved one could take a break from 24-hour caregiving. What is similar with all our volunteers is their passion and their desire to show up and help our patients and families.”

Hospice care has been impacted by the pandemic. Our volunteers had to suspend their visits for patient and volunteer safety. During this time of change, we have had volunteers retire or move on — reducing our numbers significantly.

The need is great, but we’ll support you.

We are now on a mission to grow our volunteer team. Volunteers create their own schedule and choose whether to work directly with patients or handle administrative duties, such as fundraising. You will receive orientation, training and on-going education. We have scheduled meetings where volunteers come together and help each other grow. We support our volunteers the same as we do our staff.

“Being a hospice volunteer is not the easiest of places to volunteer. There will be tears and smiles, quiet moments and visits filled with laughter, and the understanding that endings are beginnings,” Kuehl said. “The rewards that come can be counted big and small and will be carried with you.”

Linda Seeley

A former hospice nurse shares her story.

Linda Seeley, of South Hill, has volunteered with CMH Community Hospice for three years. She has an extensive background in hospice as a registered nurse and is now retired. Linda helped start the hospice program at VCU Health CMH in the 1990s and spent 36 years in end-of-life care.

“It’s not something you can quit cold turkey,” she explained. “I had patients I wanted to keep seeing, so becoming a volunteer was a natural transition. The most difficult part is not being allowed to give medical advice or provide hands-on care. I have to contact a nurse for that.”

When Linda visits patients, she reads to them, watches their favorite television shows with them, washes dishes and brings treats, like cantaloupe from her brother’s farm.

“I have really enjoyed my experience volunteering,” Seeley added. “It’s nice to be able to have time to go in and sit with a patient and really get to know them. When I was a nurse, I had other patients to focus on and mounds of paperwork to fill out, which really limited my time with each patient.”

Volunteering in a rural area means you’re going to run into people you know.

“This is a great opportunity to help others, especially neighbors and friends,” she said. “You’re making a difference in their lives.”

A long-time volunteer shares her experience.

Peggy Donochod lives in Bracey and has volunteered at CMH Community Hospice for 18 years. She had no prior experience in health care but felt drawn to hospice because she was unable to help her sister with her mother’s passing after relocating out of state.

“I was volunteering all over the place and needed to pick just one area about which I felt strongly,” Donochod explained. “I knew a pastor who was a hospice chaplain. I had some guilt from not being able to care for my own mother’s arrangements, and this was a way I could give back.”

Over the years that Peggy has volunteered, she has enjoyed bringing flowers, hearing her patients’ stories and looking at photographs with them.

“Sometimes they just want someone to listen to them and be there for them,” Peggy added. “I’ll bring a box of tissues and cry with them.”

Her husband was afraid she would become depressed volunteering in hospice, but CMH Community Hospice offers training and support to teach volunteers how to process their emotions.

“You feel reinforced with your own blessings and become glad for the life you have,” Peggy said. “You sometimes bond with the patients’ families more than the patient. It’s been a very positive experience. You’re helping people in a bad situation, and it’s a good thing. You feel valued.”

For more information about CMH Community Hospice, engaging a hospice speaker, becoming a hospice volunteer or contributing to hospice, call (434) 447-0831.