“When I first met her, she was sitting alone in a dimly lit room she shared with three other women. Her blouse was unbuttoned, exposing one sagging brown breast and a wormlike scar where her other breast had been removed. Depression embraced her like a close friend. A wary look in her eyes told me she had no place for a hospice volunteer on her agenda.
“What’s that, you say you a hospice volunteer, and you want to come see me every week? No, I don’t need to see you. I have enough visitors,” Lelia complained shortly after I arrived. Her tone reeked with annoyance at my intrusive presence in her gated world.
“Lelia, I came by to see you today because I hoped we could get to know each other better. I was thinking that I might be able to help you in some way, maybe with a problem or something.”
“No, I got enough help. Like I said, I don’t need to see you. I don’t need to see nobody. I just want to be left alone.”
© Frances Shani Parker
So much for making me feel welcomed. Fortunately, I was able to win Lelia over and have a very interesting relationship with her. Her story is one of my favorites.
What does research say about dying people wanting hospice-palliative care volunteers? According to the “The American Journal of Hospice Palliative Care" research at Mount Allison University yielded the following results using 100 adults:
Participants were asked to imagine they were terminally ill and told about services volunteers could provide. Finally, they were asked if they would want a volunteer and why. Eighty-nine participants wanted a volunteer, mostly for general support and lack of nearby family. What about the other thirty-five? Some sounded just like my patient Lelia by saying they didn’t need help. Other reasons included being private people.
In the total group, sixty-five participants were aware of the volunteer program. Among those who were not aware, 89% expected their family doctor to inform them of the program. These results indicate a need for more patient information regarding the availability of hospice-palliative care volunteers.