My name is Sheila and I am a hospice volunteer. I have to admit, I had preconceived notion about hospice, before I volunteered. Death. That is no longer the case. Hospice is the light in the darkness. Hospice offers physical, emotional and spiritual relief. I have seen patients moved to tears. Today I tell people, hospice is not about death it's about peace of mind. Harbor is a place of compassion, commitment and care. It does not matter if you are under hospice care at home or a facility, the high level of care does not waiver.
When I first decided to volunteer at Harbor Hospice I thought hospice was somewhere people put their loved ones in to waste away and even be forgotten. What I learned by volunteering at Harbor is that I was very wrong. The atmosphere was so loving and caring and so home like. Everyone I met there have been so nice and caring from the nurses to the custodians. Every patient's family members that I have met and visited through the years (even a family friend) staying at Harbor have always been so lovingly taken care of. Harbor does so much to help the patient and their loved ones to cope with the process and to be there when they may need a shoulder to lean on. If the need ever arise I would not think twice about using Harbor Hospice.
Hospice to me is a place for your loved ones to feel more comfortable in a quiet environment. Care and concern is given to the patients and also the family members. Harbor Hospice will do everything they can to meet the needs of the patients.
Earlier today Hank and I visited one of our regular Assisted Living Centers. A resident who I will refer to as Mrs. D is a delightful British lady 93 years old. She loves Hank. We have visited with her for nearly one year. Recently her vision and hearing has deterioratedbut looks forward to seeing Hank ever Friday morning. We usually arrive at the facility at 11:00am, visit the skilled nursing center residents, then the memory care unit and make our way to individual rooms in assisted living. Generally we get to Mrs. D's room about 11:20-11:30. This morning we knocked on her door just about 11:20am. As we entered she was just turning off her ancient alarm clock, you know, the one with the bells on top of the wind up clock. She recognized that Hank and I were here. I asked her why her alarm was ringing at this time of the morning. She said, "Oh my. I do this every Friday to remind me that Hank is coming to see me." I started to cry. Hank moved to her, laid at her feet, and let her pet him for about 15 minutes. How lovely is that? This is just one of many moments Hank and I experience each week. So, thanks again for allowing us the opportunity to minister to these lovely people.
To hear people involved with hospice tell it, the service they offer is more about helping people decide how to live than preparing them to die.
“I consider it a journey,” said Bertha Ann Wilson, volunteer coordinator for Harbor Hospice. The Opelousas-based service offers home-based care and comfort to people who opt out of aggressive treatment for their medical conditions. Harbor seeks volunteers to work with patients and their families within a 50-mile radius of Opelousas.
“You don’t have to be a nurse or have a nursing background,” Wilson said. Volunteers may be 18 or older and must undergo background checks. But their service does not necessarily involve direct patient care. “It could be cooking, cutting the grass, light housekeeping or picking up groceries,” she said — any task that might help a patient and family in the home. “Errands, reading a book or having a conversation.” Hospice is an approach to end-of-life care that has become a more popular option in the United States during recent decades. Instead of the medical system’s intense focus on curing or saving a patient, it emphasizes making the patient comfortable — preferably at home — for his or her remaining life.
“We build a relationship with the family and the patient,” Wilson said. Volunteers work at patients’ and families’ request. Agencies like Harbor Hospice maintain nurses on call for client families, along with a spiritual advisor and a social worker.
“In this community, a lot of people think that when we say ‘hospice,’ that means somebody’s going to die,” said administrator Anita Alfred. She and Wilson said some clients who have arranged for hospice care live for months or even years after they end treatment for symptoms other than pain. For people who prefer not to do home visits or have contact with patients, Harbor Hospice also relies on volunteers to help with outreach at health fairs, festivals and other public events. Wilson said she tries to tailor training to volunteers’ available time and interests, and to match volunteers with what patients and families require. She has recruited her own father to sign up.
“We look at it as a way to be with a family at its time of need,” Alfred added. “We encourage; we comfort.”
Harbor Hospice is much more than a place. We are devoted to giving each family a gift when they need it most...quality of life for our patients when they are facing life's greatest challenge.
At Harbor Hospice our commitment to excellence is reflected in our core values. Conveying these values throughout the organization with excitement and passion by word and action is what drives us.