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Health Matters: Gift of time means everything to hospice patients

January 21, 2016
Danvers Herald

Ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the lives of a hospice patient. Take for example, Mrs. Brown. While she was contented and well-cared for in a long-term care facility, she had no family or close friends to visit her. One day, as she sat across from the nurse’s station she heard someone announce that they were there to visit her. Her head popped up and with an enormous smile she beamed, “For me?” Mrs. Brown had a hospice volunteer.

Volunteers play a vital role in helping patients and their families feel supported. And there are many different opportunities for volunteers. Some people have misconceptions about hospice work, believing it to be difficult and depressing. While caring for patients and families at end of life can have sad moments, the majority of work focuses on helping people live each day to the fullest. At Care Dimensions, our volunteers unilaterally agree that this experience is very rewarding. Ask any of them to describe their volunteer involvement and you will hear that they get so much more than they give.

The reasons people volunteer are as varied as the volunteers themselves – some want to say thank you for a personal hospice experience, others to make a difference for someone else, some to keep busy, and a few do it for the love of giving to others and a passion for the hospice mission. What else should you know about volunteering at Care Dimensions?

  • Even two hours a week is enough. Seventy percent of our volunteers work full- or part-time and they range in ages from 18 to 97. There is no right or wrong way to volunteer. Everyone’s time and availability differs. Hospice volunteering can be done in the evenings and on weekends, unlike some other volunteer opportunities.
  • Follow your talents. What are your special skills or talents? Do you have a hobby you enjoy? Many Care Dimensions volunteers share specialized talents – landscaping, pet therapy, crafts, music, computer support, cribbage, reading aloud, cooking and Reiki are just a few examples.
  • Support and training. Volunteers receive initial training that prepares them to handle the role they’ve selected, whether that involves spending time directly with patients and families, helping at the Kaplan House or providing office support. In addition, we provide ongoing support and volunteer education through workshops, networking and other activities.
  • It starts with a phone call or an online application. A phone call is not a commitment. We often hear from people who called for more information but couldn’t commit the time at that point, and then finally started volunteering months later when their schedule allowed. We’re very flexible and often able to accommodate people’s schedules. Any amount of time is helpful, and even if you are just exploring options for the future, we would still love to hear from you. You can apply online at
  • We have specialized volunteer opportunities. After you complete the initial training, we have several specialized trainings for volunteers who want to work with our Veteran-to-Veteran program, LGBT patients, make bereavement calls, provide bedside vigil and many other options. Call us to learn more.

What may seem to be a little gift of time to you, can have a tremendous impact on the lives of others. And that can make all the difference in the world – for you and for them. Care Dimensions will hold training classes for those interested in becoming a volunteer for the nonprofit organization. The first session will be held 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 18, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Kaplan Family Hospice House, 78 Liberty St., Danvers. The session will run weekly until March 24. Contact volunteer coordinator Fran Clements at 978-750-9349 or f[email protected] to register or for more information.

Sheryl Meehan is the director of volunteer services and complementary therapies for Care Dimensions.




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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 over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

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