BONIFAY — Making a difference through volunteering was the main point made by two representatives from Emerald Coast Hospice on Wednesday. The hospice recently opened a location at 1330 South Boulevard in Chipley.
Emerald Coast Hospice employees Margo Lamb with volunteer services and Community Liaison Cecily Smith, spoke to the Bonifay Kiwanis Club in effort to educate the public on hospice and to find volunteers for the organization.
Smith opened by talking about their newest location at 1330 South Boulevard in Chipley.
“We did that because we had such a need for patient care on this side (of the hospice’s service area) and it was growing,” said Smith. “We actually have more patients on this side than on the Marianna side — that should tell you how many people need hospice services in this area.”
She said there is a common misconception when it comes to hospice care.
“Most people think that when you’ve got hospice care that you’re going to pass away or die right away and that’s just not the case most of the time,” she said. “Hospice care is for those with a life-limiting illness. You do have to have a physician’s order to be under hospice, but not to be referred.”
Anyone could be referred, she said, and it doesn’t just include cancer patients, it also covers Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, Renal Disease and Alzheimer’s was a few examples she gave.
“The Memory Care Program is an excellent program for those who have Alzheimer’s but it’s also good for the caregivers as well because a lot of the caregivers are the ones that are suffering,” said Smith. “They are the ones that are taking care of someone with Alzheimer’s and they are the ones that are staying up all night. One of the things we’re doing for that is hiring extra nurses to provide care 24 hours, especially for those who have Alzheimer’s because a lot of them have sundowners.”
She explained that “sundowners” refers to those suffering with Alzheimer’s who stay up during the night.
“We do provide 24-hour care, 365 days out of the year and a referral doesn’t have to come from a physician, it can come from a member of the community,” said Smith. “And the thing is to get in there as soon as possible and not be only days away from dying. The preferred amount of time is within six months to a year to be able to get in and educate the family.”
She said they not only provide nursing care but they also provide social workers who can handle wills and psycho-social issues, as well as chaplains and volunteers. Smith then introduced Lamb to explain about the volunteer program.
“One of the things that got me so interested in this position, besides the fact that I have a health care background, is that I volunteered when I first got here just to get in touch with the surrounding community,” said Lamb. “It’s a great way to reach out to the community and make a difference and that’s probably the biggest reason why people come forward to volunteer. A good portion of our volunteers are folks who have had an experience with hospice, whether it be with our hospice or with another hospice company.”
She said there are many different levels of volunteering available to choose from.
“The most obvious is being with the patient,” she said. “Patient care services is where you would go into the home or into the nursing home or in the hospital and sit with that patient and offer them companionship, emotional support and friendship. It’s amazing how much they will tell a volunteer versus a nurse or a doctor or a family member.”
Sometimes they will be afraid to share certain things with their loved ones, said Smith.
“Patient Care Services is a great way to step in and help,” she said. “Another service provided through Patient Care Services is caregiver relief. Those caregivers need to be able to get out of the home themselves and go to doctor’s appointments, hair appointments, drive their other family members other places.”
That’s where the volunteer comes in and sits with the patient while the caregiver leaves.
“There are certain things that a caregiver cannot do such as lifting, feeding and administering medication,” she said. “We also make sure that before a volunteer is given that there is a good fit between the caregiver, patient and volunteer. Another aspect of volunteering is bereavement, that’s after a family member has gone through hospice services and has passed away. We keep a family in our services for 13 months where the family can continue to receive services to cope with the loss of their loved one.”
Smith said there are also gatherings where grieving families can get together, eat and connect with other grieving families.
“It’s very therapeutic,” she said. “It helps them to be able to open up and to talk about it. Another volunteer aspect is clerical and administrative, if you know of anyone who is looking to get out of the home and work a couple hours a month, they can come into the Chipley or Marianna office and work side by side in the office.”
There are also event volunteers that help out with events such as the Northwest Florida Championship Rodeo, Sunland Festival and Marianna Arts Festival.
“We also have volunteers that go out to a patient’s home and do yard work, move couches, move furniture around to bring in a hospital bed,” said Smith. “The other aspect to volunteering is just giving back to your community and being there to make a difference and if anyone is interested in volunteering I’d love to meet with you and sit down. It’s about an hour orientation where we do a background check, find out your likes and dislikes and find out more about you and what you’re interested in doing.”
For more information visit www.gentiva.com or call Margo Lamb at 526-3577.