No One Dies Alone
by: Capella Tucker, December 31, 2007 12:12:00 am
It was started by a nurse in Oregon who was not able to stay by the beside of a dying patient. The Methodist Hospital picked up on it and now have a volunteer group of more than 100 people willing to be at the bedside of patients in the last 48 to 72 hours of life. Bereavement Services Manager and staff chaplain Denice Foose says they thought they would be serving the homeless who were in the hospital.
"We have had that, but what it has turned into even more so is people who are isolated for whatever reason from their family and friends. We had one gentlemen who was in his 60s that came in for surgery and unexpectantly things went bad for him. Well his parents lived with him in Nacadoges, they were in their 90s, well they couldn't get here."
And there have been other cases where family and friends just aren't able to get to the hospital. That's when a volunteer is offered to the family to sit by the bedside. Fooce says it meets a different need for patients and families from other services.
"Most of hospice is making you comfortable medically, this type of thing. The chaplain, the same. They are there to visit with you to provide any type of spiritual need that you have,but it's going to be a visit. This really is, we are there from the minute we're called and can line up volunteers through the entire process so they're never alone."
Fooce says it also helps nursing staff who have the pressures of caring for a floor-full of patients and may not be able to spend as much time at the bed side as they would like. The Methodist Hospital Bereavement Coordinator Roman Olachia trains the volunteers for 45 minutes.
"Some simple ground rules are to sit equal to the hip of the patient so that when the patient opens their eyes they can see them. They are not right in their face if you will, and they don't have to stress and turn and look and strain in any way but they can see that person and know that presence is there."
Nearly all of the volunteers are staff members ... one of whom is Senior Development Director Nan Duhon.
"We all know how society is today, how everybody is scattered and children of other family members may be in their own cities raising their own families or handle their jobs."
Duhon says she tries to learn something about the patient so she can read items, tell stories or sing songs appropriate for the individual. Sometimes families will make special requests. Duhon says the level of emotion and difficulty vary with the patient's condition and even with the volunteers own personal experiences.
"I think it's harder for some our volunteers who are younger and who have not had a death experience with a parent or a family member."
Methodist started another program as a result of this one where they partner volunteers with long-term patients, such as those who have undergone organ transplants, where maintaining visiting hours have become difficult for family and friends. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.