Volunteer co-ordinator Linda Brooks (left) and Ruth Sawyer who has volunteered at Moog and Friends Hospice House for 20 years in the great room where residents often come to spend time with family and volunteers. Mark Brett/Western News

Hospice volunteers give from the heart

Volunteering in the world of palliative care

Like many of the people who give of their time and compassion, Hospice House volunteer co-ordinator Linda Brooks also was on the receiving end of all that kindness.

“My father died in hospice and I saw what it was like and I saw what it could be like for others and that made me want to get involved,” said Brooks who has worked in hospice for nine years, the last five at Moog and Friends. “That experience of being there gives you an insight as to what people need and what people want.

“We do the best that we can. We have people who have come in here who are in horrible pain and haven’t had the quality of life and we’ve been able to give them that quality of life, they can be with family and friends until the end of their life and they can be comfortable.”

With anywhere from 60-90 people in the palliative care program at a time, surprisingly filling the more than 70 volunteer spots is not a problem.

“I actually turn multitudes of people away. I’m probably the most fortunate volunteer co-ordinator in the region,” she said. “The people that come here really want to volunteer because they’ve had an experience with hospice and they realize what a troubling time it can be for a family and they want to give back.”

Volunteers work both at Hospice House as well as out in the community helping people with errands, doctors appointments, walking the dog or just or just lending an ear.

When it comes to picking her helpers, Brooks has a particular individual in mind.

“I ask them about how they would deal with a difficult family situation because we have deaths here that are beautiful because the families are so supportive and everybody is all on the same page and then we have very difficult times…” she said. “I’m mostly looking for people who have a gentle calmness about them. This is just such a sensitive very emotional time for families and residents so you just need those people who are really comfortable in their own skin.

“You’ve got to be somebody who isn’t wanting to come in here and fix things because there is nothing we can fix, we’re just here to support and do whatever we can.”

New recruits undergo 40 hours of training and another 10 hours with a current volunteer before going out on their own.

But in spite of the training there are times when the work can have a very emotional impact on individuals according to Brooks.

“We’re all going to have our moments when we break down and lose it because we all are going to be drawn to different people but we’re here for each other,” she said. “But for our own mental health and emotional health we have to look at it as we’re giving the best possible life we can give them until they take their last breath.

“That’s the way we have to look at it from our point of view and it may sound cruel but if you took every death to heart it would become undoable really.”

She added each member of the team from paid staff to volunteers work closely together, watching out for each other and ready to jump in to help and support wherever necessary.

And thanks to her pilot project last year the there are now youth (high school) volunteers working with hospice.

“It’s exciting people of that age want to deal with death and dying, I don’t think I would have,” said Brooks. “It’s a really good dynamic and they have really good energy. Everyone loves to have young people around, ‘reminds me of my grandson, or my daughter when she was her age.’”

Volunteering in the world of palliative care is not for everyone but for each those who do, it is an easing of the burden of life and death for those who pass and those left behind.

Just Posted

Penticton Vees shut down by Merritt Centennials on Feb. 15

The Vees now host the Langley Riverment tonight at the SOEC

Princeton pot plant getting ready to hire

Princeton’s newest employer - which promises to be one of its biggest… Continue reading

Callan Rd. to have intermittent closures on Feb. 16

The closures could delay traffic up to 20 minutes, no exact times for the closures were listed

Nothing instant about this Okanagan restaurant’s “ramen risotto”

This Miradoro dish is not your dorm room ramen

Osoyoos surveying residents on new recycling pick-up policy

Residents will no longer be able to use the blue bags for recycling as of July 1

VIDEO: Historic night in Red Deer as 2019 Canada Winter Games kicks off

Star-studded Opening Ceremony features athletes from across Canada

Drive BC warning slippery conditions for Okanagan main highways

The region is forecasted to see flurries and snow for the first half of the weekend

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Flying squirrels found to glow pink in the dark, including two from B.C.

Squirrels from Hope and Abbotsford were included in the biologists’ database

Man and woman shot in targeted incident in Kamloops

The shooting happened yesterday afternoon

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Most Read