Loneliness can be especially painful or pronounced for people in the last stages of a life-limiting illness. Having a companion to lean on during such a vulnerable chapter of life has proven to significantly enhance hospice patients’ happiness and overall peace in their situation.

Jeff and Bert are a couple with a long history of volunteering at Hospice of Redmond. As Volunteers on Call, they deliver medications and supplies to hospice patients throughout Central Oregon. Hospices must have volunteer programs to remain in compliance with Medicare regulations. Without people like Bert and Jeff, Hospice of Redmond and similar organizations would cease to exist.

Many of the volunteers with Hospice of Redmond give their time because of a personal experience they had with a hospice organization. Bert and Jeff’s experience with hospice goes back to California in the 1990s.

Bert and Jeff volunteered at a place called Christopher House before moving to Central Oregon. Christopher House was the first licensed AIDS hospice facility in Ventura County for low-income individuals. Bert and Jeff were close personal friends with Christopher Dye, who died from AIDS complications in 1990. Christopher House was his brainchild, and his family opened the facility in his memory. Jeff and Bert cooked food for the patients at Christopher House. Eventually, they brought their golden retriever, Jessie, in to provide pet therapy for anyone and everyone who needed a fuzzy pup to love on. Later, they helped with fundraising for the nonprofit. 

While it has been several decades since the AIDS epidemic first began in the U.S., the loneliness that many AIDS patients felt is not forgotten. People were scared that HIV was an airborne disease that could spread from being in the same room as someone diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. Fear leads people to do things that can be extremely hurtful. During the AIDS epidemic, tens of thousands of men, women, and children were left to die alone, whether they wanted companionship or not.

“Men and women were dying on the streets because of AIDS,” said Jeff. “We had friends who were dying of AIDS and realized how bad the fear had gotten when we overheard two nurses arguing about who was going to bring in the food tray to our friend’s room. They did not want to enter because he had AIDS; as staff, they should have known better.”

Hospice of Redmond’s mission is to provide a hospice volunteer to every hospice patient who opts to have one so no one feels the sting of loneliness at the end of their life.

The needs and desires of each patient dictate the amount of support provided. Some patients receive volunteer support for a few hours every week, while others receive support from one or two people up to three times each week. Often, volunteers stay with the patient while the caregiver runs errands. And some are present at the bedside, holding vigil during a patient’s last moments.

While some volunteers keep hospice patients company, not all are regularly face-to-face with patients. Some volunteers arrange flowers that other volunteers deliver to brighten patient’s homes. Volunteers may be assigned to grocery shop, help patients catalog old photos, or write down their stories and memories. Others volunteer their time doing administrative tasks in the office, such as answering phones or supporting fundraising events. Hospice of Redmond will try to match volunteers with patients who have common interests. For example, some veteran volunteers spend time with veteran patients, sharing stories and connecting about similar experiences. This takes a lot of willing hands and hearts, and there is always a need. If a volunteer is willing to help, we can find a task they are passionate about performing.

At Hospice of Redmond, we never want patients to die wishing they had more companionship. Because of our amazing volunteers like Bert and Jeff, our patients know they matter, people care about them, and they are not alone. 

If you want to learn more about becoming a volunteer, visit our website at https://www.hospiceofredmond.org/why-volunteer/.