Helping Hospice help us
The annual Summer Soirée benefiting Hospice of Martha's Vineyard this Monday, August 11, is not only a wonderful party, it's an opportunity for the community to support this unique agency in carrying out its compassionate mission. Now in its 27th year, Hospice provides a spectrum of caring services to patients with terminal diseases and their families. Beyond just attending to an individual during his or her last few days, the agency will become involved as soon as a diagnosis is received, offering whatever care is necessary to make the last part of life peaceful and comfortable in every way.
"We support the patient and their family at this very sad and love-filled and complicated time as they approach death," says executive director Terre Young. "We meet their spiritual, physical and emotional needs, and we're there for the family afterwards in their time of loss and grief.
"We come with the hope of helping the family have the best days together, for as many as they might be. We focus on life, on living together. And we focus on comfort and making the individual free of pain and side effects as best we can. We work to bring them hope."
While there are countless hospice organizations in the country, the Vineyard agency is one of very few offering care entirely free of charge. "We couldn't do it without the community's support," Ms. Young says with gratitude.
Working closely with professional staff, it is the volunteers who are the backbone of Hospice. "They are our angels and our eyes and our ears with the family," said Ms. Young.
Currently there are 32 trained volunteers, men and women of varied ages from many walks of life. All share a heartfelt willingness to help their neighbors in a time of intense need. The volunteers provide a variety of services. Some will sit with a patient and talk, play cards, help with letter writing, or read aloud, allowing family caretakers some time to themselves. They frequently form warm, close relationships with patients and their families. Some volunteers keep vigil with a patient as death nears.
Volunteers like Caroline Evans, who visits clients at Windemere, say that what they get back from working with Hospice patients is far more than what they give.
Photo by Ralph Stewart
Ms. Young says that people often say they would like to die suddenly or in their sleep. "But this is the right way to die," she says, "with your loved ones around you, supporting you, saying I love you, saying goodbye, putting everything together at the end."
Ms. Young stresses that Hospice keeps expenses low so that as much of its income as possible can go to patient care. Its home, a small but bright and comfortable trailer at Martha's Vineyard Hospital, is an example. Several years ago the staff chose to stay in the 14-year-old trailer rather than seek larger quarters elsewhere. Along with keeping costs down, staying in the trailer keeps Hospice convenient to the hospital, doctors' offices, and Windemere.
According to Ms. Young, Hospice has recovered from the unsettled period three years ago when several staff left because of disagreements with board decisions. She says the agency has regained the trust of the community and medical personnel and can put all its efforts into serving clients.