“Dying is a very personal and humbling experience. Helping to better prepare the client and their family and bring more meaning into their lives is what we do.” These words were shared by one of our many dedicated volunteers, Frances Channon. Frances has been working with Fox Valley Hands of Hope for over 20 years. She has won several awards with our organization for her service and is great example of why we continue work towards our mission.
Part of what we do at Fox Valley Hands of Hope is deliver direct service volunteers to local hospices, assisted living facilities, and cancer centers. These volunteers offer emotional support, respectful caring, and non-judgmental listening while providing a healing presence to patients and families during care. Patients are oftentimes provided with items and services designed to enhance emotional comfort and reduce stress.
Defined by the National Hospice and Palliative care organization, “Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering.” Additionally, “Hospice care involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional support, tailored to the patient’s needs.” The NHPCO also reported that 48.2% of Medicare beneficiaries that passed in 2017 were enrolled in hospice care at the time of their death. As our society grows to be ever more complex and hardworking it becomes hard for families to care for their dying loved ones. Because of this, understanding and involving loved ones in palliative and hospice care is becoming increasingly necessary.
There is a very prominent stereotype surrounding Hospice and Palliative care that paints the picture of assisted care facilities as cold places, with a lack of compassion. On top of that notion, the idea of uprooting your life and place of comfort during a very uncomfortable time in your life can be very scary. This fear can lend itself to even more discomfort and restlessness. John Froman, a supportive care and bereavement volunteer, witnessed this discontentment first hand upon meeting a nursing home resident. “The first resident I met on my first day at the nursing home screamed at me to, ‘Go to Hell!’ She ignored and insulted me for months afterwards.” Despite this patient being surrounded by many capable doctors and nurses in a nice facility, she still expressed a significant grievance in her heart. As hospice and palliative care become ever more essential in people’s end-of-life experience we are posed with the question; how can we make this situation better for the patients that need care?
While many hospices, assisted living facilities, and cancer centers are staffed with devoted nurses and doctors, their time is taken up by delivering much needed medical care to the patients. Patients are left feeling a void of human connection, especially those that do not get any visitors. Fox Valley Hands of Hope started our Patient Care, Supportive Care, and Hands of Hope programming to fill that absence of connection for people.
Sometimes a simple conversation or quick interaction can brighten the day of a patient residing at a hospice or assisted living facility. There are other times where the patient may not want care or attention at all, as their situation has led them to feel bitter about the world. At Fox Valley Hands of Hope we have found that with a little compassion and a little comfort many patients become receptive, and very appreciative of the support we are trying to provide. John Froman continued his story regarding his first resident by saying, “Very slowly, she started warming to me. Over the next couple years we became friends, and she met my kids and I met hers. When she died she was ready to die, and I wasn’t sad. A few months after she passed away I learned she was a holocaust survivor and I cried; I still cry when I think about it. It’s such an honor to have played a part in her life.”
The patients receiving assisted care are not the only ones gaining something from these experiences. As we send our volunteers out into the world of hospice, assisted living facilities, and cancer centers we are also gaining a fulfilling interaction with those who have lived life much longer than us. The stories and wisdom behind the eyes of so many of our lovely community members are a true treasure for us. It reminds us of the precious value in life and that despite the reality that all life experiences must come to an end there is hope that this process can be a beautiful and gratifying one. Frances Channon explained this process saying, “Everyone makes an impression while on earth, and I’m always learning.” John Froman also described what he has personally gained from his direct service volunteering, “I don’t like sharing (compliments from patients) for many reasons, one of which is this isn’t about me. This is about our clients, then it’s about Fox Valley Hands of Hope. I will say this one time, I secretly think I’m great at this. Call me quietly arrogant if you will, but if I am great at this, then I’m great because FVHH teaches, trains, and encourages me to be great, and because our clients bring out the best in me.”
We all have something to offer in this world, whether we are just learning to read, budding into our careers, or nearing the end of our lives. The human experience is rich and deserves value at every stage. Our volunteers dedicate their time to help add this value, by offering companionship and interaction to those who need it. At Fox Valley Hands of Hope we will always strive to provide guidance, compassion, and hope to those nearing the end of their lives and those suffering from the end of a loved one’s life. We are with you!
If you are interested in learning more about hospice facilities, cancer centers, or assisted living facilities in our community please give us a call at 630.232.2233 and we will help guide you. If you would like to know more about our direct service volunteer opportunities please contact our Manager of Volunteer Services, Adriana Torres at 630.232.2233 ext.227.
Interested in donating to our direct service programs on December 3rd for #GivingTuesday? Visit, www.givegab.com/nonprofits and look up Fox Valley Hands of Hope in the search engine!
#wearewithyouFVHH #givemoreHOPE #GivingTuesday