When a loved one is faced with a terminal illness, being in the comfort of their home is a gift not everyone receives. Linda Derry shares what she’s learned throughout the last 16 years helping those at the end of their lives.
When Linda Derry witnessed her brother take his last breath in a hospital 20 years ago, she admits she knew it wasn’t what her brother wanted for his last months or days of being alive. After her loss, a deep desire to do something for others developed.
“I wanted to do something to honor my brother’s life,” Derry says.
While searching for volunteer work, an announcement in a local paper asking for hospice volunteers caught her attention. Hospice care is a philosophy and a system of care that attends to the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of patients and their families at the end of the patient’s life.
At first, Derry was reluctant about volunteering for hospice and says she had to come to grips with her own mortality. But after careful consideration, she felt this was her moment of great opportunity.
The Journey of a Hospice Volunteer
It’s no secret Derry is a special woman, although she considers herself ordinary.
When you listen to her share her thoughts and stories, her voice exudes comfort and kindness. And Alexis Greene, Hospice Volunteer Coordinator with Renown Hospice Care says she was destined for this line of work.
As a local hospice volunteer for more than 16 years, Derry has a profound sense of what it’s like to help someone who is faced with a terminal illness. She has immersed herself in comfort-focused care by reading books and getting to know her fellow volunteers in the field.
Her most recommended book, “On Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kübler- Ross explores the five stages of death — denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — to provide a better understanding of how imminent death affects all who are involved.
And her strongest relationships and support are her fellow hospice volunteer friends.
“Often the emotion of what a patient and their loved ones are going through touches me,” Derry says. “Having friends who understand this line of work helps me continue to do what I do,”
She has provided more than 2,300 volunteer hours throughout the years, supporting those who are near the end of their lives and those that continue on.
“Watching families deal with the void of missing their loved one will always be hard,” Derry says. “The single best gift I can give is that of listening. It’s not about giving advice — becoming a good hospice volunteer is about being supportive and turning questions back to the individual so they can find the answer within.”
To learn more about Renown Hospice Care, visit renown.org/hospice or call (775) 982-2828.