Helping hands of hospice
The time a loved one spends in hospice care can be difficult for all involved. There's an emotional toll for family members, medical professionals and hospice workers themselves.
That's why the staff at Mt. Hood Hospice are grateful to have a reserve of 26 volunteers to come alongside them and their clients to share the load.
Volunteers perform a large variety of tasks to help patients and staff, including making friendly visits, providing respite for caregivers, helping with yard work, running errands, taking patients to appointments when necessary, feeding pets, as well as singing and reading to patients.
"When you volunteer, you are making a commitment to share that most precious of resources — your time — to make life better for those who are in need," recited Susan Stindt, Mt. Hood Hospice volunteer coordinator at last week's volunteer appreciation dinner. The week of April 7-13 was National Volunteer Appreciation Week.
"The fruit of your labors make a tangible impact, but perhaps it is the fact that you are willing to share your time and talent and lend a helping hand to show kindness and caring that makes the greatest difference in the lives of the individuals who are touched by your generosity," Stindt added.
The experience of volunteers in attendance at the dinner ranged from as little as a few months to 20 years of service. Many of them were drawn to give of their time in the hospice industry after having witnessed the care their loved one received while in hospice care.
Bev Anderson, a Damascus resident, has been volunteering with Mt. Hood Hospice for 19 years. She decided to volunteer in the healthcare field after watching her brother go through hospice.
"I've had a loved one who died and had hospice care, and I appreciated so much what they did that I wanted to help," Anderson said. "I'd actually planned to just be a volunteer at a hospital, but I was driving out here one day and I saw the sign for Mt. Hood Hospice and just on a whim drove in. I like to think it was a God thing."
Initially, she planned to simply support hospice staff. She's stayed, however, because of the interesting people to whom she gets to administer care.
"I've met the most fabulous people," she noted.
For many, Anderson is one of the last people to hear their last stories. In her nearly 20 years of service, she's enjoyed tales from an anthropologist from Cornwall, a concierge who worked abroad, and many more.
"They love to tell you their stories," Anderson said. "The people (at Mt. Hood Hospice) just become another family."
Sandy resident Ron Eskes, who's volunteered with Mt. Hood for six years, can attest to the family atmosphere among the volunteers and staff.
He originally signed up to help because he was looking for a way to give back and occupy his time.
"I really enjoy the different people I meet while volunteering," Eskes noted. "But the biggest reason I think I do this is that I'm getting there."
Eskes explained that as he gets older, he sees more and more the importance of hospice, and he hopes to have as great a team as that at Mt. Hood caring for him if he needs it.
"I appreciate being there for the family and the person in hospice," he added. "It's an interesting dynamic."
Ten-year volunteer Sami Oeser was "so impressed with the hospice staff and volunteers" who cared for her father when he was dying that when she retired and moved to Sandy, she felt called to volunteer for a similar organization.
"When you volunteer you always seem to get more than you give, even though that's not why you do it," Oeser said. "It gives you a sense of purpose. With hospice, you know you're allowing someone to die in familiar surroundings and with dignity. Since I have been involved with Mt. Hood, I've discovered how they work with patients, putting the patients before the money. I consider them kind of the gold standard of hospice, and I'm proud to be part of the organization."
Mt. Hood Hospice Executive Director Rhonda Franke said one of the reasons Mt. Hood can offer such great care is their volunteers, which they are actually required to have.
"It is actually a Medicare regulation that 5% of patient service be provided by volunteers," Franke told The Post. "Susan keeps track of all the hours and at the end of the year we total and compare against all field staff hours to get the percent. Our total for 2018 was 11% of care was provided by volunteers. (The volunteers) give us a perspective that our staff do not always see. They get more personal time and intimate with the patient /family as they can be in the home longer than regular scheduled staff visits. They report back to us what is shared between each other. Then it is shared with the staff. The same volunteer stays with patient until death, visiting on a regular basis. We treat each other as family. That includes our volunteers. We got our second deficiency-free survey from Medicare in October 2018. Which is very impressive."
Mt. Hood Hospice is always welcoming new volunteers and offers a yearly training program.
For more information about volunteering, visit mthoodhospice.com.