Texas County Memorial Hospital Hospice of Care honored its volunteers April 30 at a luncheon. Those recognized included the Hospice of Care volunteer group and those who lead teams for the TCMH Healthcare Foundation Chili Cook Off — the annual fund-raiser for Hospice of Care that is coordinated by the foundation.
Sandy Eaton, the volunteer coordinator for Hospice of Care, considers the hospice volunteers to be a “vital” part of the organization.
“We could not provide the level of care we provide to our patients without our volunteers,” Eaton emphasized.
Hospice of Care volunteers sit with patients, help hospice patient family members, make meals, attend funerals and much more. The Chili Cook Off teams, while they do not provide hands on patient care, are also vital to Hospice of Care because they volunteer in organizing chili making teams that raise funds that are used to cover some of the services of Hospice of Care.
There are 10 regular volunteers for the Hospice of Care program, women and men. “We have had social workers, ordained ministers, an attorney and retired individuals,” Eaton said.
Many of the Hospice of Care volunteers consider volunteering to be an important part of their life, and they volunteer with many organizations.
“Volunteering is rewarding,” said Bettie Sperlazza , who has assisted Hospice of Care since 2003.
Audra Sigman of Cabool, a volunteer with Hospice since 2007, is known for providing homemade baked goods for the Chili Cook Off fund-raiser. She has provided meals, homemade bread and cookies for hospice patients and their families.
“I am not a nurse,” Sigman stressed. “I come in where I’m needed to provide food, bereavement support or fund-raising help when needed. “God gives different gifts to everyone.”
Many volunteers come to the organization after experiencing firsthand what Hospice of Care offers to patients and their families. Sperlazza began volunteering for Hospice of Care following her husband’s two-year terminal illness in which hospice care was utilized.
“I wanted to give the same thing that was given to me to someone else,” Sperlazza said. “Hospice volunteers can do little things to make patients and their family members more comfortable.”
Patricia Rosen of Bucyrus, a new volunteer for Hospice of Care in 2010, said that it took a couple of years following a family member’s death. But she decided to also give back to the same hospice that worked with her.
“Sandy was my hospice nurse, “Rosen said. “Hospice was so helpful to us, and I also wanted to volunteer with Hospice of Care.”
Eaton was also the hospice nurse for Beverly Ramsey’s family in Houston, and Ramsey experienced Hospice of Care services with several family members.
“I knew that God had a calling for me,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey found her calling when she started volunteering for Hospice of Care in 2008. “I’ve been able to bring joy to our patients even in their sadness,” she said.
Ramsey described a time when she helped purchase a monument for a family that lost a child.
“The family didn’t have the money to purchase a monument, and it felt so good to give to them,” she said.
Wendy Phipps of Houston has also been volunteering for Hospice of Care since 2008.
“If I can, for a moment, bring a smile to a face that needs a friend, provide a hand to hold or a neck to hug or allow a family member a few moments to run errands without having to worry about their loved ones, the time spent volunteering is worth it,” she said.
Phipps thanked TCMH and Hospice of Care for the opportunity to give back by volunteering in her community.
“I believe I have grown in spirit and in humility because of the volunteer opportunities I’ve had,” she said.
Since 1983, volunteers have been working with Hospice of Care to provide care for terminally ill patients in Texas County and the surrounding area.
“The hours a volunteer works are strictly up to them,” Eaton said. “They set their own time and days, and the only commitment we require is a half hour each week from a volunteer.”
TCMH Hospice of Care was the first hospital-based hospice in Missouri. Medicare requires that hospices regularly recruit, train and retain volunteers to provide hospice care. In fact, Medicare regulations require that volunteers must do 5 percent of the hours worked by the participating hospice.
In 2009, volunteers averaged 16 percent of the total hours worked at Hospice of Care. The monetary value to the hospice program equaled $15,869 in volunteer patient care and non-patient care.
Volunteers assist with hospice-related events like the annual Chili Cook Off, bereavement tea and various health fairs. Indirect patient care may involve helping the hospice staff with office work like answering the phone, filing or copying. Direct patient care involves sitting at a patient’s bedside or talking with family members. Sometimes volunteers attend the funeral of a patient that passes away, and a volunteer may continue to keep in touch with the family members.
“I never have to beg for a volunteer to help us at Hospice of Care,” Eaton said. “Our volunteers reach out throughout the community to help others, and they volunteer for hospice whenever I have a need.”
Hospice of Care provides orientation for new volunteers – hospital orientation covers such things as privacy policies and infection control procedures and hospice orientation covers topics such as bereavement.
Monthly in-services are also provided to Hospice of Care volunteers. The training may cover how to use a hospital bed to caring for a patient using oxygen. Volunteers are required to complete four hours of continuing education each year.
Eaton will accept a new hospice volunteer at any time. Interested persons may contact her at 417-967-1279 for additional information. Volunteers must go through an evaluation process and full background check before acceptance into the program.