Archive for Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Hospice of Leavenworth seeking more volunteers from Tonganoxie area

March 8, 2000

Even in the midst of death, life must go on.

That's why, when taking care of a loved one who is suffering from a terminal illness, it is sometimes the little things that mean the most. It may be as simple as having an opportunity to leave the house for a while, having someone help assist with the patient, or to go to the store for groceries, watch the children, help with the housework, or perhaps just to sit and talk.

That's where Hospice of Leavenworth comes in. Hospice cares for terminally ill people who have six months or fewer to live.

Sharon Stratton, a volunteer since September for Hospice of Leavenworth, said the goals of hospice are to ease the pain of the body, heart and spirit during this time. Stratton, who teaches music at Tonganoxie Elementary School, said she had experience with Hospice before she volunteered.

"During the last two months of my mother's life, in 1991, Hospice came and looked after some of the nursing care," Stratton said.

Hospice includes the total care of patients, Stratton said.

"It covers everything from physical care of the patient, how to move them from the chair to the bed, and to care for the family as well," she said.

Diana Jacobson, volunteer coordinator and social worker with Hospice of Leavenworth, said volunteers are needed.

"The numbers are down," Jacobson said. "We have 52 volunteers this year. In a year's time they'll put in around 2,300 hours that's quite a few."

Doris Arwine, licensed clinical social worker with Hospice for nine years, said some volunteers are needed in the Tonganoxie area.

Stratton said she decided to volunteer for Hospice after reading a booklet she found at church. Soon after, she read a notice in her church bulletin that Hospice volunteers were needed.

"It really came together for me at that time," she said. "It was almost a spiritual experience."

So she attended Saturday training sessions and has helped care for patients since.

Because the patients are terminally ill, Hospice workers have to prepare for the realization their patients will die.

"I lost a patient yesterday," Stratton said. "You grieve for the patients and you grieve for their families, because you do get attached to them. But the compensation is that you help them die with dignity and in their own homes."

For at least a year after the patient's death, Hospice keeps in touch with families, sending them holiday cards and keeping them informed about grief counseling sessions.

It takes a lot of volunteers to help with the Hospice programs, which include bereavement and support groups, Arwine said.

"The volunteers are a very core element," she said. "We cannot have a hospice if we do not have the volunteers."

For information on how to become a Hospice volunteer, call the center, (913) 684-1305.

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