Volunteer Program for Hospice Care

Roberta Jones shares her personal story of how she came to want to make in hospice care, and how she chose this as her project in Landmark Education’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program:

In January of 2006 my brother-in-law, Kirby, collapsed at work and was taken to the emergency room. We soon discovered he had esophageal cancer and his prognosis was very bad. The news of his illness was catastrophic to his only brother, my husband, Randy. Randy had struggled with maintaining a good relationship with his brother their entire adult life due to Kirby’s alcoholism which was a result of severe childhood abuse and a stint in Vietnam. Randy was incredibly saddened to learn that his brother who has struggled so much in life was now going to lose the chance to improve his life and live to be an old man with his brother. It didn’t take long for us to discover that Kirby was in the final stages of his cancer.

As a family we discussed all of the options. The doctors pushed for medical treatment even though there was a good chance Kirby wouldn’t make it through chemo for very long. He had lost a considerable amount of weight for his small frame and was very weak from the disease. We were all also concerned about the fact that we would have limited access to Kirby because of the threat of passing infection to him during his treatment.

That’s when Kirby decided on Hospice and comfort. As a family we supported his decision all the way. The Hospice environment was wonderful. The nurses were incredible in their caring and empathy. Where Kirby was restricted at the Hospital he was encouraged at Hospice. Randy and his sons even took Kirby on an outing to his favorite spot in the woods up north. The “boys” all shared in a final goodbye to their favorite hunting area with their brother/uncle. During the three weeks Kirby was in Hospice family was there most of the time. We visited with food, stories, laughter and love as much as we could. It was comforting for all of us to have those final weeks to be fully present to each other as a family. It’s during those times you realize how important family is in comparison with everything else we put so much significance.

That’s why it was so shocking when we learned there was a gentleman in Hospice who didn’t have the support of family and friends. Kirby befriended “Tim” and asked us to go to the store for him and buy Tim some cigarettes because he didn’t have anyone to take care of him. Kirby continued to be Tim’s friend until Kirby died on 02/18/06. We went to see Tim one more time after Kirby died to bring him some things. But my thoughts were always on the man who lived his last days alone at Hospice.

In December 2007 I was introduced to Landmark Education. I received an opportunity to attend a class called the Landmark Forum in the city of Livonia (Detroit Center). Little did I know how much of an effect that class was going to have on me and my family. The Forum was amazing. I came out of the experience a better person, a better friend, a better parent, a better spouse, a better family member but mostly, a better human being. Because of the excitement I felt in that class I continued on farther into their “Curriculum for Living” and had a wonderful learning experience in the advanced class and then finally in the third course, “The Self-Expression and Leadership Program” (SELP). It was in the SELP that I learned that it isn’t about us as individuals but rather as community and how we can all help make planet earth a better place with bringing about amazing projects to help those in our community seeking a better life, or in our case, a better death.

Since I met “Tim” in Hospice I thought about the need for a program of volunteers to come and assist those who are dying without family and friends. I believe all human beings need love and support especially in their final days. I met Kelly Voisinet and Karen Ketola who are the volunteer coordinators at Sparrow Hospice Services in Lansing, MI. These are two amazing women who saw the need for this project also and “have taken the ball and run with it.” We are structuring the additional training needed to assist volunteers in taking on these types of patients. We are also determining what special materials they will need to have with them in the home to assist their patient (ie. Bibles, rosaries, cards, books, etc). We are always looking to donations. You can reach me at vrtrainer@verizon.net if you would like to donate something useful to this program.

About the author

Julia Taylor

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