April 12, 2022
Hospice Volunteers Provide Emotional Support During End-of-life Journey
Hospice is not a place. Hospice is the care and compassion a specialized team offers to support patients and families during their final journey.
The Cedar Community hospice team supports patients and families before, during, and after the end-of-life journey. An important part of that team are the hospice volunteers who serve as “new friends,” providing emotional support and comfort for not only the patient, but the extended family. Bereavement volunteers call family or loved ones bi-monthly to check in after a loss and clerical volunteers send out monthly grief support booklets.
Bonnie Amerling is the volunteer coordinator for Cedar Community in West Bend. One of her important roles is to match volunteers with hospice patients—comparing interests and spiritual preferences, and if the volunteer has a connection to the patient through a previous interaction or friendship. Becoming a hospice volunteer is a commitment. It involves a number of steps, including an interview with the volunteer coordinator, a background check, a two-step TB test, COVID-19 vaccination and booster, and eight to 10 hours of training—followed by a completion test. Continuing education is also required twice a year.
Volunteers usually have one to two patients at a time and spend at least one hour visiting an average of one time per week. There is no set time required and schedules are worked out with the volunteer, the patient, and the team members.
“End of life can be a difficult but beautiful process. Our volunteers make those moments even more enriching—sharing stories, learning about one another, freely giving compassion, and making the patient’s last days more comfortable and enjoyable. Their presence means everything—even if it’s just sitting and holding someone’s hand,” says Bonnie.
KC Laycock, hospice volunteer and Cedar Community independent living resident, has been a hospice volunteer since 2000 when she lived in Milwaukee.
“My father died alone in another nursing home in the middle of the night and I did not receive a phone call from the staff until the next morning. It really hit me hard that he was that close to death and no one ever told me,” says KC.
Since then, she’s been honoring her dad’s memory as a hospice volunteer. “I don’t want anyone to die alone,” she said. The Laycocks moved to Cedar Community in 2005, and in 2008, Cedar Community’s Home Health and Hospice came to fruition. KC was the first volunteer to step up and say, “I want to help.”
When visiting with patients and loved ones, KC introduces herself as a special friend. “When I moved to Cedar Community, I came here to find a family and I have. I want others to feel that way, too.”
Learn more about Hospice services provided by Cedar Community.