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April 16, 2015

Jim Ingraham is recognized as longtime Care Dimensions volunteer
Acton Beacon
By Molly Loughman

Comforting those facing a life-limiting injury or illness, hospice care professionals work to provide pain management, emotional and spiritual support when traditional treatment is no longer an option.

Acton resident Jim Ingraham is being recognized for his 13 years of hospice care volunteering with Care Dimensions during National Volunteer Week, which runs through April 18. Care Dimensions was founded in 1978 as Hospice of the North Shore and has evolved from a small, all-volunteer agency to its present status as the largest hospice in Massachusetts. In 2014, Care Dimensions cared for 4,458 hospice patients and provided 1,950 palliative care visits.

Care Dimensions serves an average of 600 hospice patients and 140 palliative care patients per day, either in their own homes, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, group homes, veterans' hospitals and other places.

“Jim really continues to find time to regularly to dedicate his energy to regularly take on patients, which is hard for volunteers to find that balance, and it takes a lot of practice and he’s very good at it. He’s got a great sense of humor, which is a huge asset in this sometimes very difficult work, and I think that comes through with many of his patients,” said Rebecca Wendler, Care Dimensions volunteer coordinator for the Greater Boston area, noting Ingraham also attends monthly volunteer support meetings sharing his volunteer challenges and successes with others. “He’s really been a great support to volunteers throughout the years because of that time he gives.”

Ingraham is one of Care Dimensions' 446 volunteers. In 2014, volunteers contributed a total of 25,983 hours of service. Ingraham estimates he has worked with 17 patients in his 13 years as a hospice volunteer.

Working full-time for the past 40 years as a chemical engineer, Ingraham began his commitment to hospice care volunteering after his mother died. To this day, the Connecticut native credits the hospice workers for helping to keep his family balanced. One volunteer who stands out in Ingraham’s memory took his mother out for rides in her convertible and offered companionship and solace.

“We should have brought the hospice folks right in and should have made her last two months less painful and more pleasurable because the chemotherapy beat the daylights out of her,” said Ingraham. “The doctors don’t help all the time because they want to give you hope and want to see you get well. It’s hard for them to say, 'Go for quality for the rest of your life and do what you want to do.’ It’s taboo in this country.”

Ingraham decided to give back through volunteerism and found out through his mother’s former hospice volunteer, who inspired him to get involved two years later in 2002. Ingraham was trained at Emerson Hospital in Concord.

“Sometimes the family is in denial that the loved one is dying and they wait until the last minute to put the person on hospice. Most of the times they’re worried about their loved ones and not upsetting them anymore than they already are, so they feel uncomfortable talking about what they’re going through. So just being someone who’s objective and can just sit, it helps,” Ingraham said. “I’ve gotten much more out of being a volunteer than I’ve ever given. The stories and the gratitude people have -- it’s hard to take sometimes. There is a loss when people die, but I’ve got their stories. It’s hard enough to die, but without this kind of support, it’s even more difficult.”

According to Wendler, Ingraham possesses great sensitivity at being dependable and reliable to patients and families. Seeing one patient weekly, Ingraham has been known to not take time between patient assignments.

“He does not try to fix anything in a difficult situation, but just to be whatever that patient needs at that time, which takes a lot of practice. He has a great understanding of hospice policy and hospice boundaries and really melds those well beautifully. He’s very good at being present and being available as a listener and companion,” said Wendler, explaining that new volunteers often enter the situation with a goal of fixing it, but that is not always a wise approach. “It quite a commitment. They come with open minds and open hearts just to do that important work.”

Care Dimensions volunteers consist of all different kinds of people with varying backgrounds, all with a keen interest in helping others at end of life, said Wendler. Anyone can become a hospice care volunteer, which involves 18 hours of training, now being offered at Emerson Hospital.

“It’s really not complicated. It’s being a great listener and being able to hear their stories. I think everyone wants to be remembered for something. We all die,” said Ingraham, who praised Care Dimensions for their heartfelt and compassionate service. “The simple things mean a huge amount to people. To go out the front door and breathe the fresh air and just be able to do what you want. You’re not necessarily going to have that forever. It gives you a better appreciation for the time we all have here.”

For information, visit caredimensions.org.

 


Since 1978, Care Dimensions has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in more than 90 communities in Eastern Massachusetts.