Monica Woodruff has lost three family members to cancer—her mother, grandmother and father-in-law. Her father-in-law died in a hospital hospice wing and her mom received hospice care at home. As a result of her family’s experiences with cancer and hospice care, Woodruff decided to volunteer with Baptist Trinity Hospice House as a greeter two years ago.
“Hospice is such a wonderful program for patients and their families,” said Woodruff. “This was something I came across that I could do when I left work, something I felt passionate and strongly about—hospice care, in general.”
When Baptist Trinity Hospice House introduced the 11th Hour program in January, Woodruff quickly volunteered.
“I was really excited when I got the letter and heard about the program,” said Woodruff. “I wanted to do this … the thought of somebody being alone hurts me so much more than to be there to hold their hand and be there to talk them.”
The 11th Hour program provides companionship and comfort for patients who are actively dying and need someone to stay with them because they don’t have family or friends available, or their family needs support for a few hours while they care for other responsibilities. This can be a challenging time for patients and their families, but it can provide a volunteer with an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in another person’s life.
“I just think it’s a gift for me that I’m invited into their life during this time to be with them,” said Lisette Jones, 11th Hour volunteer and scheduler. “I feel like if anything, they’re helping me out. I could be sitting home doing nothing important, but I’m sitting here with this patient during a very important and emotional part of their life.”
Jones has firsthand experience with comforting a dying loved one. Her father died from cancer and her grandmother died in her arms on her birthday. That’s one of the reasons she volunteers with Baptist Trinity Hospice House.
“I would hope I wouldn’t be alone in my 11th hour,” said Jones. “I continue the program because I feel like I want to help. Even though it’s their most vulnerable time—to me it’s a good thing that they’re not alone … It’s special.”
Volunteers must pass an 11th-hour competency test and spend at least three months working with hospice patients before they can participate in the program. Other qualifications include basic hospice training, a four-hour specialized training and recertifying annually. During volunteers’ three to four hour shifts, they hold patients’ hands, read or sing to them or just talk to them.
“The most important thing is just being present,” said Woodruff. “Be there with them, hold their hand, touch them. We don’t know how much they can hear or know, but you know you’re there for them.”
For more information about volunteering with the 11th Hour program, please contact Sandra Livesay at 767-6767.