The aging process can oftentimes rob a person of their mood, self-esteem and well being, but volunteers with Care Initiatives like Pat Morrison have the opportunity to step into that storm and help calm it by spending time with a person to let them know someone cares.
Care Initiatives has been in Greenfield for the better part of the last decade providing hospice care services to 15 counties over much of southwest Iowa. There are six offices like theirs around Iowa.
“We go into where the patients are. We don’t have any hospice homes, so we go into private residences, nursing facilities, and the goal is comfort and support,” said volunteer coordinator Todd Daily. “The patient and family have decided they’re not going to seek any more aggressive treatment and we’re just going to let things take their natural way.”
At that point, Care Initiatives nurses spring into action in concert with social workers, spiritual counselors, music therapists, aides and volunteers to offer symptom management and pain management and any other needed support.
Morrison is a retired nurse and has volunteered with Care Initiatives for eight years.
“I was Director of Nursing at Greenfield Manor for 11 years, so I was familiar with hospice coming in and just wanted to work as a volunteer because I knew it was helpful for them to come in and visit with the patient, play cards with them, or whatever,” Morrison said. “I volunteered to be a hospice volunteer then and have enjoyed it.”
Morrison attended a
program at the library about hospice. It was there that she first decided to volunteer. She hasn’t been disappointed in her decision. Many times, Morrison’s role is to simply be a friend to her patients. She’ll take them magazines or books for them to look at, sing to them or play cards with them.
“I’ve also made fidget blankets or sensory blankets for Alzheimer’s patients who just need something to do with their hands,” Morrison added. “They’ve got buttons and zippers on them. Knowing you’ve made somebody’s day a little happier, that affects your day, too, as well as getting to know some of their families. Quite a few of the patients I’ve taken care of I’ve known them in the past. They appreciate the time you spend with them too.”
Medicare requires that at least five percent of the time agencies spend with hospice patients be with volunteers. Last month, Care Initiatives topped 10 percent, which Daily feels is a good thing.
“It’s not necessarily five percent per patient, but it’s five percent of the total time our staff is providing over the year.”We try to have each of our patients be visited by a volunteer, but some of our patients we only have for two weeks, some we have for six weeks and others we have for six months,” Daily said. “We try to get a volunteer in with each one to let them know it’s available and let them get that extra human contact — someone who isn’t coming in just to poke and prod but to visit with them.”
April has been National Volunteer Month. Those wishing to volunteer with Care Initiatives should contact Daily. The company has a training program all volunteers must go through before being able to serve.