Hospice training a ‘personal journey’

Charlie Gibson wasn’t so sure he would enjoy volunteer work with Hospice of Homer.

“I thought it was going to be depressing, but it’s not,” said Gibson, who has found his niche moving equipment for hospice’s equipment loan program.

“It always feels good,” he said.

Gibson, who has worked with hospice for three years, said the volunteers and employees of hospice are wonderful and it’s great to work with them. 

Beginning Saturday, Hospice of Homer offers its annual training for community members who are interested in volunteering for its End of Life Program and/or the Volunteer Visitor Program.

The sessions are free and open to the public, but seats are limited so those who are interested must register by calling hospice or stopping by the offices at 910 East End Road. The 34-hour training lasts through October. Classes are at the Friendship Center, at the Homer Senior Center. 

“Hospice of Homer volunteer training is a textured, rich experience that provides people with the tools to become an effective HOH volunteer,” said Darlene Hilderbrand, hospice’s executive director.

“Participants take a personal journey where they explore their thoughts, feelings and experiences with grief, loss, separation and death. Also, many guest speakers present information on pain management, body mechanics, self-care, funeral arrangements, and more. Basically, hospice volunteer training offers valuable information and exploration for all of us because all of us will experience the aging and death of a dear one and eventually the end of our own life,” she said.

Hospice of Homer has four programs: end-of-life care, a volunteer visitor program, an equipment loan program and bereavement support.

The end-of-life program offers services to people who have a life-threatening or terminal illness. The services include respite services for the family and caregivers, minor home maintenance, transportation and emotional support. 

The end-of-life care program’s motto comes from a quote attributed to Cicely Saunders, founder of the Modern Hospice Movement, St. Christopher’s Hospital, London, England: “You matter because you are you. You matter to the last moment of your life, and we will do all we can, not only to help you die peacefully, but also to live until you die.”

The volunteer visitor program offers great opportunities for community members to grow, learn and give back to society. 

Hilderbrand related some of the ways hospice helps with the following story: “We had an elderly gentleman who loved to garden, but due to his illness he could no longer do it. A volunteer would come by and garden outside his window. It brought tears of joy to his eyes to watch someone do something he loved,” she said.

 “Working with hospice as a volunteer or staff member offers amazing and hidden gifts. I remember when I truly realized the gift of being able to go outside and feel fresh, alive air on my face. I did not realize and appreciate this daily gift until I worked with a client who could not go out of doors. He could not do go outside and feel the breeze from Kachemak Bay on his face; inside air is much different than outside air.  I didn’t deeply consider the gift of such simple things until I really understood that they can be taken away,” said Hilderbrand.  

Hospice of Homer also loans durable medical equipment free of charge. 

Gibson said the loaned equipment not only helps the elderly, but also other adults and young people in the community who have had bad spills on the ice or surgery and need a little help before they go out on their own. 

The loan program equipment includes hospital beds, electrical and manual wheelchairs, oxygen concentrators, lift recliner chairs, grab bars, tubs bars and IV poles, and baby monitors and bed alarms. The program also loans items like wheelchairs and crutches to places such as the library, Pier One Theater and visiting cruise ships. 

In addition to the equipment, hospice donates incontinence products, including disposable underwear and bed pads.

Hospice of Homer is designed to include community members in helping meet the needs of an aging population

“Hospice in Homer is small, so we get to tailor it to this community,” said Gibson.

Heather Ericson is a freelance writer living in Homer.

Hospice of Homer volunteer training

34 hours of training 

Free and open to the public; call to save a seat

Phone:  235-6899

Location: Friendship Center at the Homer Senior Center, 3935 Svedlund St.

Dates: Oct. 5, 6, 8, 12, 13, 15, 22, 29;  times vary