Hospice program benefits patients and volunteers

November 11, 2004|EMILY TOADVINE

Jeri Bryant was a little disappointed that she didn't get to put a shine on Jackie Hillard's home.

When Bryant, a volunteer for Heritage Hospice, first came to visit Hillard at her home off Ky. 300, she brought all of the Swiffer products that she had found so handy at her own home. She found that there wasn't much to be done in that arena because Hillard keeps her house neat and tidy, but Bryant has found other ways to help her new friend.

During her weekly visits, Bryant and Hillard, who has hurthel cell carcinoma, have Bible study. Bryant also is able to stop by the pharmacy and pick up prescriptions for Hillard. Hillard, who began receiving hospice services in March, knows that Bryant is there to help in any way she can.

"She assures me if she needs me, she will call on me," Bryant says.

Hillard, who was baptized by the hospice chaplain, Gary Story, says the Bible study is what she appreciates for now.


Bryant says she understands that sometimes what Hillard needs is just friendship. "As most women, we want to be as independent as we can."

Hillard, who will celebrate turning 56 Friday, says her health problems began at age 22 when cervical cancer was detected. Next, doctors found she had melanoma. Ten years ago, she had thyroid surgery and it was discovered that a tumor had formed on her spine, limiting her ability to walk. The type of cancer she has is extremely rare. "Even the doctor had to look it up," says Hillard, who suffers from tumors in her leg, limiting her ability to stand for very long.

Pain medication helps, but it takes its toll.

"I have real good days and some days she comes and I'm just out of it," Hillard says.

Bryant, a volunteer for hospice since retiring as a school teacher in 2002, says she had thought about it since her stepmother received hospice care in 1989 in Ashland.

"I thought I'd give it a try and see if it's a good fit."

Eighty-two volunteers

Bryant has found that she likes helping others and she's not alone. She is among 82 volunteers for hospice, which serves Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties. Some volunteers work with terminally ill patients or transitional patients, who still are seeking treatments for their illness. Other volunteers simply help out in hospice's Broadway office doing paperwork or keeping an eye on medical supplies.

Wendy Cox, who has served as director of volunteer services for eight years, says if anyone has 45 minutes to spare, she can find a service for them to provide from light housework or yard work to staying with a patient while the caregiver gets out of the house. "The main thing our volunteers do is support the family, provide emotional support," says Cox.

Volunteers also help with the office work load.

"We'd have to hire a lot of additional people if we didn't have our volunteers," Cox says.

Hospice, which is funded by United Way, requires volunteers to complete a 16-hour training program.

Many of the volunteers, like Bryant, came to the program after a family member was served by hospice. Ben and Renie Zimmerman have been volunteering four years. Danna Hoffmaster, who recently started making teddy bears that hospice patients will receive, has been serving three years.

"We've got the time, we might as well do something good instead of sitting around doing nothing," says Ben Zimmerman, who mostly works around the hospice office.

His wife provides help to a transitional patient.

"I think a lot of the time, what I do is support the caregiver," Renie Zimmerman says.

Sometimes they go to lunch.

"She never gets out and she needs to get out," says Renie Zimmerman, who is a cancer survivor.

Hoffmaster, who also helps a transitional patient, says she often stays with her patient's husband because he's sick, too. Her time at their home allows the patient to get out of the house.

"They're so happy to see you when you show up," says Hoffmaster, who might do a task such as washing the dishes while at the patient's home.

For Hoffmaster's teddy bear project, Cox says hospice needs donations of fabrics to make the bears.

Hoffmaster, whose mother received hospice services for six months, says hospice helped her emotionally through a difficult time. "The comfort someone else gives you at the time is enough to make you want to do the same thing."

Zimmerman says she receives as much as she gives from volunteering. "You think you're helping someone else, but you're getting more from it."

Hillard, whose family lives far away except for her husband, Rex, says she never even knew about hospice before her doctor mentioned it, but she is grateful for the nurse, social worker and volunteers they have sent.

"I mostly depend on hospice for everything."

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