A Renown Hospice Care volunteer shares her experiences working with people and their families during a precious time — the end of life.
For Laura Hennings, volunteering with Renown Hospice Care presented an opportunity to give back to the community. Through spending time with different people, Hennings feels fulfilled from helping people feel heard.
“There’s a sense of them being witnessed,” she says. “It’s important to give witness to their life, their accomplishments and even their mistakes.”
Hennings began volunteering with Renown Hospice Care when the program was created two years ago. Every Monday she travels to spend a couple hours with the person she is volunteering for. This can include cooking a light meal, tidying up around the house, providing companionship or giving respite to the family. She said that it’s important to remain flexible during her visits.
“I try not to make a plan,” Hennings says. “Their needs are always different because of their situation. Whatever is on their mind or whatever is needed, I do.”
Spending time with those on hospice has taught Hennings to be more present in her own life and to not put off spending time with those who are important.
“It’s a time when they reconnect with family and friends that they haven’t seen in years,” she says. “What I take away from that is: Why are we waiting? When people go on hospice, the conversations get real. It’s not about the weather anymore, it’s about what matters.”
Alexis Greene, hospice volunteer coordinator, says volunteers are an important extra set of eyes and ears for the team because they are able to view the situation differently from the medical team. Volunteers will communicate with Greene to review any updates or observations about the person on hospice. This information is also relayed to the rest of the Hospice Care team.
“They are crucial to the team because they are a volunteer,” she says. “They come with a courageous, generous, open heart and are willing to be present in situations that are difficult. Because they are a volunteer, and not a paid employee, the patient trusts them at a different level.”
Hospice Care volunteers complete 14 hours of training and occupational health requirements. They learn how to respond to various situations, how to assist family members and how to talk about or explain different topics. Currently, there are 16 active volunteers who will meet monthly to review Renown Hospice Care’s caseload, receive extra support from the group and to learn a new skill or topic that can aid in their work.
Hennings says that people often ask her how she is able to volunteer with Hospice Care. Her response is that both ends of life can be a positive experience.
“It can be just as a beautiful and just as rewarding as participating in a birth,” she says. “It has been the most rewarding thing I think I have ever participated in.”
To learn more about Renown Hospice Care, visit renown.org/hospice. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, call 775-982-2828.