Hospice Volunteers: Central Florida Humanitarians
By Maria Sonnenberg, Space Coast Medicine & Active Living // November 4, 2014
ABOVE VIDEO: Hospice volunteers bring happiness, relief and peace and can be relied upon to deliver these gifts humbly and with appreciation for the opportunity to give back.
COMPASSION, RESPECT, INTEGRITY AND THE DESIRE TO HELP DEFINE THE QUALITIES OF HOSPICE VOLUNTEERS.
“As necessary when working with terminally ill patients, these volunteers set their own needs aside to ease the burden that patients and families often feel during end-of-life care,” said Mary Larson, a licensed clinical social worker and the volunteer coordinator at Hospice of St. Francis.
“They bring happiness, relief and peace and can be relied upon to deliver these gifts humbly and with appreciation for the opportunity to give back.”
SHARON JENSEN, HOSPICE OF ST. FRANCIS
Sharon Jensen was first confronted with death when her mother passed away.
“It was back before I knew much about hospice,” said the Pam Bay resident.
Hospice so eased Jensen’s mother through the journey at the end of life that Jensen decided that she wanted to give of her time and talent to such a worthwhile organization.
For six years, Jensen has volunteered with Hospice of St. Francis, which offers hospice services countywide. She is there for friendly visits, respite care and as mentor to new volunteers, helping them get their bearings as they begin.
She also helps with new volunteer training. Her background as a former licensed mental health counselor is invaluable to both patients and to other Hospice of St. Francis volunteers.
“Many of our patients have different levels of dementia, so we have to get a little creative in order to engage them,” she said.
With a good heart for all creatures great and small, Jensen also helps at the Daily Bread and lends a hand to the South Area Animal Shelter and the Space Coast Feline Network.
She estimates that her volunteer projects consume at least 25 hours per week.
Although it may not seem so initially, her efforts with hospice have similarities to her work with the animal shelter, for hospice patients who have become dear to her inevitably pass away, as do many shelter animals that must be euthanized because the facility is overburdened with unwanted pets and no homes can be found for them.
“My perception of death has changed since I started working with hospice,” she said.
“I don’t see it as the end. I see it as the next step in the adventure of life. I believe it 100 percent. While there are always sad aspects, when you don’t see it as the end, it helps to take away the tragedy.”
JENNY QUELLER, HOSPICE OF HEALTH FIRST
Pamela Margut, volunteer services coordinator at Hospice of Health First quotes Mother Teresa when talking about hospice volunteer Jenny Queller.
“Mother Teresa said to ‘be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies,’” said Margut.
“This quote could not be more applicable to our Jenny Queller. She started out just doing office work, but quickly became involved in almost all facets of hospice volunteering.”
Queller, of Palm Bay, has amassed quite a list of “not-so-small” things she has done for hospice since she joined them in 2006.
“Every day is different,” said Queller.
She has done just about all aspects of hospice volunteering: administrative duties at hospice’s Dairy Road office, facilitation of groups for the grieving children’s program, Bright Star, friendly visits, medicine delivery, patient transport, respite care, greeting visitors to the William Childs Hospice House, assisting with hospice’s memorial services and transforming into a temporary beautician during spa days at assisted living facilities where
Queller provides manicures and hand massages to hospice patients living there.
“There really isn’t anything she won’t do,” added Margut.
Queller learned about the hospice movement from seeing the help provided to a former boss and to her sister-in-law.
“I admire people who work in hospice and the caring and compassion they provide,” said Queller. “I am not in the medical field, but I can volunteer to help, because there is such a need for that kind of help.”
Margut considers Queller the epitome of the volunteer.
“She encompasses all that a volunteer should be and more,” said Margut.
“Mother Teresa was right on the money. Our strength and who we are is well represented by Jenny Queller.”
LYMAN ROWAN, WUESTHOFF HOSPICE
Lyman Rowan sees volunteering for Wuesthoff Health System Hospice an integral part of his life. “I consider it the same as breathing,” he said.
The Rockledge resident has devoted 20 years to volunteer hospice work, and despite the heartbreak that is part and parcel of volunteering for an end-of-life program, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rowan has volunteered for Wuesthoff Hospice since 2004. When asked to visit a patient, he never hesitates to follow through with the request, traveling many, miles across Brevard to visit as many as six patients in one day.
Rowan never gives a second thought to mileage and time. It is the patient who comes first.
He began volunteering after hours and on weekends while he was still working as human resources manager. After retirement, he was able to spend even more time with the hospice patients.
A survivor of four near-death experiences, Rowan believes his past has prepared him for his present as a hospice volunteer.
“It gives you a different perspective,” he said.
He visits patients once a week, staying from one to three hours. It’s irrelevant whether patients are living at Wuesthoff’s Dr. Jey Pillai Center for Hospice Care, at assisted living facilities or nursing homes, at their own homes, or even homeless.
Rowan is there for them, wherever they happen to live.
It is often up to Rowan to gently guide the patients into checking off the must-dos before the end.
“There is no need to play games,” he said. “I help them get unfinished business resolved.”
“It is often very intensive.”
Patients’ needs are of the utmost importance to Rowan and he displays this through his compassion and commitment to hospice.
“I see it as a natural gift,” he said.
JERRY SHEA, VITAS INNOVATIVE HOSPICE
All Marines revel in the well-deserved no-nonsense reputation of their Corps, but make no mistake about it, these guys also excel in the comforting department.
Former Marine Jerry Shea is a case in point. For the past two decades, Shea has volunteered as a visitor for local hospices. A significant chunk of the last nine years of Shea’s life has been spent helping the families of VITAS Hospice patients in South Brevard.
Shea’s interest in hospice began when his brother, also a former Marine, was fighting cancer.
“He lived in Cleveland, my sister lived in New York and I lived here,” said Shea.
Shea and his sister both took hospice training and tag-teamed traveling to Cleveland to help their brother. As his sibling’s need for care increased, he was eventually placed under the care of hospice nurses.
Shea made a promise to help others as hospice had helped his brother.
“It’s painful, I tell you that, but it’s worth it. It changes you. Hospice is part of my life.”
The affable Shea visits as many as four patients in a day. Sometimes, it may be an hour visit, and in other instances, he may stay several hours to offer respite to a caregiver.
“In most cases, you are helping both the patient and the caregiver, because whatever the patient is going through, the caregiver is also going through. They make that journey together.”
He will transport patients to the store, to the doctor’s office and even for some R&R around town. Shea has even traveled to California to provide hospice visits to a member of his wife’s family.
Saying the inevitable goodbyes is, of course, the hardest part of the job.
“I’m blessed with children and a wife who put my world back together, but it hurts to lose the patients,” said Shea.
In addition to his work with VITAS, Shea volunteers at the King Center and as a “people mover” driver at Health First Holmes Regional Medical Center. At Ascension Catholic Church, he visits parishioners who can use a little comforting.
“I’m not one to sit still,” he explained.
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