Assembling a force

  • Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kelli Jayroe, Amedisys Hospice Volunteer Coordinator places a ribbon on the memorial wreath. At regular weekly meetings, staff is asked to take a ribbon and dedicate it to a present or past patient, and share a memory or story about that person. Then, the staff member places the ribbon on the wreath. Eileen Keithly/South Strand News

Kelli Jayroe is assembling a force.

She is looking for gardeners, crafters, musicians, writers, pet lovers, chefs, people with the gift of gab, painters, bookworms, bakers, dishwashers, vocalists, dancers, veterans, good listeners, and compassionate people.

Jayroe is searching for hospice volunteers.

She needs men and women, as well as older teens, to provide physical, emotional and spiritual support for terminally ill patients and their families.

“We need help from all walks of life,” said Jayroe, a Hemingway High School and Coastal Carolina graduate who is the Volunteer Coordinator for Amedisys Hospice Care in Pawleys Island.

Jayroe has her hands full staffing a volunteer hospice army for Williamsburg, Georgetown and Horry counties.

“People have the misconception that in order to volunteer for a hospice organization, you need a medical background, and that is just not true,” she said.

Jayroe is doing her best to assemble a large group of hospice volunteers with an array of talents.

“We need people to do just about everything you can imagine.” She pointed out it is very important for a person’s “regular” daily activities to stay intact when they have been dealt the hand of a terminal illness.

Jayroe said there is a common misconception that hospice is a place you go to, or hospice is “called in” the last days or weeks of a person’s life.

“Hospice is not a place,” she said. “It is a way of caring for terminally ill patients.” An interdisciplinary hospice team promotes quality of life and dying with dignity.

Hospice is a relatively young concept. It wasn’t until 1974 that America saw its first hospice. Four years later, the board of directors for the National Hospice Organization was established, and in 1982 hospice benefits became part of Medicare.

In order for a patient to be considered for hospice, they must have been diagnosed with a terminal condition with a life expectancy of six months or less. In addition, the patient must not be seeking curative treatment for the condition.

“For example,” Jayroe said, “a cancer patient could not be receiving chemotherapy and be enrolled in a hospice service.”

Hospice volunteers provide sweet comfort for those in their darkest times. “Whatever a person’s talent may be, there is a place for them in hospice.” related Ellna Silver, Amedisys’ business office manager.

The hospice volunteer plays a vital role in the hospice continuum of care, she said, and often a volunteer is someone who has seen the benefits of hospice for a relative or friend.

A typical volunteer spends two to four hours per week with a patient, either at their home or a nursing home. The activities a volunteer can engage in are open-ended.

“We have patients that would love for someone to just come sit and watch television with them,” Jayroe said.

“Others would like their fingernails painted, or their yard mowed or be read to. The possibilities are endless.”

Hospice volunteers not only assist the patient, but the patient’s caregiver as well.

“It is taxing on a caregiver when their loved one enters a hospice service,” explained Jayroe.” The volunteers are there for the caregiver as well.”

Many times friendships will develop between caregivers and hospice volunteers. Once the patient passes, the volunteer and caregiver often continue that friendship.

In addition, a bereavement coordinator continues to make supportive phone calls and visits with caregivers for up to 13 months after the passing of the patient.

One only needs to look at the ribbon wreath on the wall in the Amedisys office to see the love the staff has for their hospice patients and caregivers.

At regular weekly meetings, staff is asked to take a ribbon and dedicate it to a present or past patient, and share a memory or story about that person. Then, the staff member places the ribbon on the wreath.

Jayroe is working on a new branch of her hospice volunteer army. She is hoping to recruit volunteers who are veterans in hopes they can reach out and assist some of the veterans in hospice.

“I hope we have more volunteers come forward; becoming a hospice volunteer really makes you thankful and appreciate life’s blessings.”

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