by Heidi Riley
“Volunteering has many health benefits, and it is a rewarding experience,” says Catherine Gaudet, East Prince Coordinator, Hospice PEI. “As we come to know other people, we come to know more about ourselves. It gives us a good perspective on life and living, and we get to learn about what we are passionate about.”
Hospice PEI is a community of caring individuals who want to make each day count for care recipients, their families, and loved ones. It is led by volunteers, and offers caregiver and grief support, comfort and care programs, and holds fundraising events as well.
Hospice PEI began in 1984. The provincial office is located in Charlottetown, with offices in East and West Prince providing hospice, caregiver, and grief support services in those three regions.
“It is because of our volunteers that we are able to do the wonderful things we do. We support those who have been diagnosed with a life-limiting, non-curable illness, and we meet people where they are on their end-of-life journey.
“Volunteers may meet with people in the hospital or in long-term care or community care homes. The majority of their work is done in private homes, because many people choose to have their end-of-life experience at home.”
Volunteers take a two-day training session, which is offered twice a year, usually in fall and spring. Dates are posted on the hospice website.
“A lot of people think they should wait to volunteer until they are older. But people are getting diagnosed with life-limiting illnesses at younger ages, and it is so important to have volunteers who are of a variety of ages. We need volunteers in all our communities.”
Some examples of what volunteers do:
- Help people as they fulfill bucket list wishes
- Sit with them, listen to their life stories, and allow them to speak about their fears, worries and thoughts
- Do legacy writing so that recipients can leave letters to loved ones, or perhaps arrange to do audio or video messages if requested
- Do some fun activities such as listening to music, reading, and playing games – a presence can offer a distraction from one’s pain and worry.
- Drive people to medical appointments
“The big thing is just being a presence. One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is a volunteer who gives their time freely.”