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Volunteers are gifts for caregivers

Hospice care is often misunderstood, said Applegate HomeCare and Hospice nurse George Heare.

"It doesn’t mean the patient is going to die tomorrow," Heare told The Park Record. "It’s about having professionals coming to not only help the patient, but also help the family at the end of a loved-one’s life. We provide care and respite for the family."

With hospice services, families get medications, skilled nursing visits, homemaking and home-care help, Heare said.

"Care giving, which is usually done by a family member, is the most difficult thing that anybody will be asked to do," she said. "The reason why it’s so hard is because it’s never ending. It’s 25 hours a day, and usually, as people get ill, they get more demanding and sometimes more irritable."

The demands can take a toll on the caregiver.

"When you’re giving everything you can as a caregiver and getting irritation back, it’s hard to deal with every day," Heare said. "As a hospice and homecare nurse for seven years, on many occasions, I have buried the caregiver before I’ve buried the patient."

That’s why volunteers are important, said Jillbette Kelly, Applegate community relations director for Wasatch and Summit County.

"Volunteers give the caregiver a bit a respite from the demands," Kelly said. "The main focus is on caregiver burnout. Because the patients can’t be left alone, caregivers do get burned out and stressed to the point they didn’t take care of themselves. The volunteer pool is important to give them a sense of release."

Volunteers can do different things, Heare said.

"They can cook for the patient and read to them," she said. "They can talk with them and hear their stories. We have patients that are 100 years old and older. You get to know those people and understand how Park City was back when they were growing up and get their stories and get to know them."

On the flip side, the caregiver can take an hour to go for a walk, go shopping and run other errands, Heare said.

"Sometimes all they need to do is to just find a quiet place to read a book," she said.

Hospice nurses and volunteers form bonds with the caregiver, patient and their families, Heare said.

"We are privileged to be called in at the very end of someone’s life, when it’s such a demanding time," she said. "If we can go in and provide guidance or even just hold hands, we become part of the families. We share their emotions, but also give them some hope. Because of those ties, I know where there are some really secret fishing holes."

Volunteers can also work in the administrative offices, Kelly said.

"They can help with marketing and do blood drives and blood pressure clinics and health fairs," she said. "The volunteers I work with are generally grateful for what they get out of volunteering. As a volunteer, you get more than you give."

Applegate provides a free, volunteer training program, Kelly said.

"It gives them a basic knowledge of what is needed to care for the patient for limited amounts of time," she said. "It also provides the volunteers with confidence in what they’re doing. We don’t just toss them into a home and hope they do well. We actually give them a lot of information that they need."

The next volunteer training program will take place at the Park City Applegate HomeCare and Hospice, 750 Kearns Blvd., on Monday, May 16, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

For more information, call Applegate at 1-800-871-0102 or 1-877-277-9740 or visit http://www.applegatehomecare.com.


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