Two Ears and a Big Heart Help Hospice Volunteer Offer Comfort
In her ten years working as a hospice volunteer, Dorothy Weems has done everything from retrieving opera recordings and books on Greek mythology to reading the Bible to holding and rocking a five-week-old infant. But what she does most is listen.
“Being a good listener and having a genuine interest in the patient is crucial,” Dorothy says. “My goal is to establish a warm rapport and have them comfortable enough with me to express their feelings, fears and happy memories.”
Her professional life certainly prepared her for what she does now—she’s trained as a social worker and she’s worked for the state Department of Human Services, a psychiatric hospital and a home health agency. When her husband, Dr. Joe Weems, began practicing in the hospice and palliative care field, she decided to become a volunteer in home hospice care.
“For ten years I’ve visited in patients’ homes and been surprised at how people welcome a stranger at such an intimate time in their lives,” she said. “There’s an immediacy in those kinds of situations where formalities don’t matter.”
When Joe began practicing at the Methodist Hospice Residence, Dorothy began to volunteer there and found it very rewarding.
“Since the opening of the Residence,” she said, “I’ve been fortunate to see families tremendously relieved to have their loved one in a comfortable and beautiful space being taken care of by a capable and caring staff. All the natural light and the art and the views of outside—it’s just wonderful.”
Dorothy knows what all hospice workers know—that they minister as much to families as to patients.
“What we see over and over again are people who are stressed in every way but keep doing the right thing,” she said. “It really does come back to listening. Sometimes it’s a family member who needs to be comforted and praised.”
And whether it’s listening to the stories of a World War II veteran—affirming his life story while giving his wife and caregiver a break—or making an exhausted family member feel comforted and appreciated, Dorothy says the peaceful atmosphere of the Hospice Residence and the skill and dedication of the team that work there make volunteering a joy.
“The team approach is very appealing to me,” she said. “I hear so much good feedback from families regarding the whole staff. I’m proud to be associated with them.”