On March 5, 2018, Allied Services opened up the doors of their new Hospice Center to patients. The center was opened due to an increased need for inpatient hospice in our area and currently employs 16-20 full and part-time employees as well as many volunteers.
Three of these volunteers are Judy Dougher, Mary Beth Hennigen, and Irene Fotta. All three women read an article in The Times Tribune and felt inspired to take action. “I saw the article in the newspaper and I thought ‘I have to give back a little bit’,” said Judy. “I worked for Allied Services for 24 years and I thought I could do this. I felt that this was Allied and I hopped on board.”
While Judy and Mary Beth worked in an office, Irene had different experiences that led her to volunteer. “When I was in nurses training I had an attraction to hospice. It just seemed so peaceful and so important that as people are passing someone is there for them,” she says. She also knew she wanted to give back in some way, but did not know how or what to do. The article in The Times Tribune was the answer to her questions, and she shared the opportunity with Mary Beth.
The Hospice Center has 8 patient rooms as well as a kitchen and lounge area for family members. “It’s so peaceful here that you don’t have that clinical feel, even the rooms don’t feel like a hospital room. It looks like a nice, simple bedroom, and you don’t realize how important that is,” says Mary Beth. Irene adds “They really try to customize what the needs of the patient might be. You might have a 30-year-old dying versus someone that’s 90 and those needs are different, but it’s still the end of life process”.
The hospice experience is not only about the patient. The women emphasize how it is also about the families and helping them process what is going on. “As I’m doing the volunteer work, I’m finding more and more how much of a community this is, how they’re trying to serve with anything and everything they could possibly think of and it’s well thought out and planned. And to find out that this is just a small part of this network Allied Services has is just amazing,” says Irene.
Mary Beth and Judy took the time to discuss some of the support services they have for patients and families, including music therapy, massage therapy, and art therapy. “The art therapy was interesting because it helps the families get through the process after the family member passes away. It’s good to see them all become acquainted with one another,” says Judy.
A typical day for the women varies. “We’re usually here Friday mornings, and you don’t know what you’re going to walk into. We don’t know if the place is filled with families or if it’s just patients here,” says Irene. Mary Beth adds what kind of work they do depends on the day: some days they are answering phones and helping with paperwork, others they are buying food for the kitchen and helping with laundry.
A large part of their volunteer work is spending time with patients. They will talk to them, read to them, and even pray with them. Judy says oftentimes there is a misconception that volunteering for hospice is sad, with many of her friends saying they could never do it. She always tells them that she doesn’t see it as sad, but rather as peaceful and respectful. “It just gives you a good feeling that maybe you helped someone that day,” she says.
All three women emphasize that there are many ways to get involved at the hospice center and that if you are uncomfortable spending time with patients you do not have to. Mary Beth says that there are plenty of volunteers who just cook a meal and drop it off and that it still makes a big difference for the patients and families.
When asked what she would say to anyone considering volunteering here, Irene says “I would encourage anybody to do it. I think if you’re even thinking about volunteering you’re probably the right fit because you already know it’s hospice”.
Thank you, Judy, Mary Beth, Irene and all of our wonderful hospice volunteers!