Friday, November 2, 2007

Hospice Volunteer Vigils: Final Days and Hours

This post is dedicated to Marcelyn Ann Stoddard, a hospice patient I never met. She died this week on October 29, 2007. Marcie had struggled with metastasized breast cancer for several years. Last month, Frank Pruett, her loving husband and caregiver, started a blog titled Moments of Marcie, in which he chronicled their final days together. I recently discovered this honest and heartfelt blog. Frank and Marcie were an inspiration for many who supported them through the hospice vigil.

Thousands of hospice volunteers are being recruited daily just like I was years ago. People follow that path for different reasons. For many, it is a unique opportunity to serve others at a critical time in their lives. Hospice volunteering has everything to do with using good common sense and applying knowledge gained through ongoing training. When it comes to patients, it is more about the volunteer being there with them than what the volunteer actually does. The patient senses and appreciates the volunteer’s presence.

The importance of being with a patient who doesn’t want to die alone is the reason many hospice programs are providing specialized volunteer vigil training. During vigil training, a volunteer is taught how to provide bedside support during the final days and hours of a patient’s life. Assistance for families is included. At some facilities, staff members also volunteer for vigil assignments. Vigils, which are based on a patient’s wishes, can include talking, praying, inspirational reading, playing music, performing rituals, touching and, of course, sharing silence. Reflecting the hospice philosophy, volunteer vigils help provide the patient with a more peaceful end-of-life experience.

Many healthcare staff members who work with dying patients will tell you they have had patients share stories about seeing dead people, ghosts, spirits they recognize, and angels. View this post for my personal story and an informative video:

Frances Shani Parker, Author
Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog

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