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Another Voice: Volunteering for hospice is a true labor of love

By Rep. Tom Reed

When loved ones become deathly ill we are often left feeling helpless — wanting to step in and somehow ease the burden, but not sure how.

When my mother became sick, there was nothing I wouldn’t have done to cure her, but she taught me that what truly mattered to her was comfort and time spent with her family. Surrounded by a wonderful team of hospice care providers, we watched as her wishes were met.

Physicians, nurses, social workers and aides made sure her symptoms were managed and that she was physically comfortable. But just as important — if not more so — were the hospice volunteers who stepped in to give Mom companionship and normalcy at the end of her illness.

The experience changed my perspective on death and dying. Even now, I’m enormously thankful for the hospice staff and volunteers who stepped in to give my mom — and countless others in our community — quality of life when her days were limited.

Nationwide, more than 300,000 hospice volunteers work directly and indirectly with patients so that their last months and weeks can be comfortable and without unnecessary stress.

During my mom’s illness and now as a volunteer myself, I’ve seen what an important and unique role volunteers play in caring for hospice patients. Volunteers serve as a bridge for the patient and family to maintain a connection to their community. They help by providing companionship, conversation, and can even assist patients in continuing social activities, like attending their regular book club meeting or religious services. Volunteers also help provide a break for family caregivers, so they can rest from the demands on them.

Many hospice volunteers also help with essential duties such as preparing meals, assisting with household chores, and running errands like grocery shopping. Whatever your experience or comfort level, there is a role for you as a hospice volunteer.

There is perhaps no situation more difficult — emotionally or physically — than preparing for the end of life. While it can certainly be peaceful, it can also be chaotic. It can be rife with financial, familial, medical and spiritual challenges — to name a few. It is an inevitable part of our human existence, but still one we often face with fear and uncertainty. Hospice volunteers help families navigate this difficult time through care, support and comfort.

As someone whose life has been personally affected by hospice care, I’m proud that I am able to support its mission as much as I am able to in Washington. And as someone who has experienced the gratification of serving hospice patients and their families at the end of life, I would like to encourage others to become a hospice volunteer as well.

Republican Tom Reed represents New York’s 23rd Congressional District.

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