The highly anticipated—and sometimes feared—moment of a child heading off to college can leave parents feeling confused and lonely. For Jean Kindem and Julie Desmond, Fairview Hospice volunteers, giving their time to people who are at the end of their lives helped fill a void that came as a result of their children growing older and moving away.
“I get more out of it than I put in,” says Julie. “It allows me to meet new people, and every time I volunteer, the person I visit appreciates it. It’s personal and it’s satisfying.”
Jean has found that hospice volunteering is beneficial for many reasons.
“It feels good to give back, but it also helps me better understand and empathize with my friends who have a loved one experiencing end-of-life care,” says Jean.
Julie also realized that her hospice knowledge is applicable to her own life.
“Having the knowledge, experience and training from Fairview made a world of difference when my own dad was in hospice,” says Julie. “I was able to calm people who were afraid and teach my siblings because of what I learned in my volunteer experience.”
The word “hospice” has a variety of emotions associated with it—mostly somber and gloomy—so there is an assumption that hospice volunteering is sad.
“There’s a perception that hospice volunteering is depressing,” says Jean. “But really, it’s not. I meet these people where they are now—I don’t feel the loss the family is feeling when I volunteer, and I’m able to help people who otherwise might not have someone there, which is rewarding.”
Hospice volunteers are needed at all times of the day, so volunteers are able to create their own schedules and work when it is convenient for them.
“With my job, I was not able to volunteer at places that required specific hours,” says Jean. “I love the flexibility of hospice volunteering and how I’m able to work one-on-one with patients when it works for me.”
Julie recommends hospice volunteering to people with all types of daily schedules.
“People who are interested in hospice volunteering should just try it for a year,” says Julie. “My friends who have tried it still do it because people are surprised with how easily it fits into anyone’s life.”
Although Jean started hospice volunteering to give back to others, this experience has changed her own outlook on life.
“Hospice volunteering has put life in perspective for me,” says Jean. “After talking with many people who are at the end of their life, they all say none of their possessions matter. Relationships and family are the only things that truly matter to people at the end of their life, which is a lesson many people could learn from.”