From playing cards, reading and watching television to talking or listening, TCU students volunteering at American Hospice are making a difference in the lives of hospice patients and their families across Fort Worth.
Currently, eight university students participate in the volunteer program including junior nursing major Melissa Gilbreath and junior entrepreneurial management major Nicole Stevenson.
Both Stevenson and Gilbreath said they visit their patients once a week and typically talk with them. They agree it can be very rewarding, especially when they see the impact they have on the patients.
“It is amazing how simply having a conversation can have such a profound effect; many patients on hospice are lonely,” Gilbreath said. “My favorite part is the moment when I walk into my patients’ rooms and his or her face lights up.”
The goal of the hospice volunteer program is to provide companionship and support to the patients and families in nursing homes, assisted living facilities or their own homes, said volunteer coordinator Sherry Hawkins.
“Many of the patients do not have any family members to take care of them, so as a volunteer, your time is very special to them,” Stevenson said.
Stevenson said she tries to give her patients something they can look forward to every week. Her favorite part about visiting is connecting with them and getting to know their life stories,.
“I love hearing the stories of what Fort Worth was like in the '30s and '40s, including Billy Bob's when it first opened,” she said.
Volunteers are expected to visit their patients regularly, document their visits and build a relationship with those to whom they are assigned, Stevenson said. In some cases, visits benefit the volunteer as much as they do the patient.
“I have learned so many life lessons from the patients and to really appreciate the things that I have,” she said.
Students from the schools of business, nursing, occupational therapy and social work are currently volunteering with American Hospice, Hawkins said. However, there are opportunities for volunteers of all backgrounds.
“The need for volunteers is ongoing,” she said. “Besides patient care volunteers, we always need assistance with general office tasks and are working to build our bereavement program, which provides reassurance and support to family members after the loss of a loved one.”
The program is also interested in having Spanish speaking volunteers, students who study music therapy and child specialists to work with with the children of younger hospice patients or the grandparents who are raising them, she said.
For more information on the American Hospice volunteer program,contact Sherry Hawkins at [email protected] or visit the office at 6421 Camp Bowie Blvd, Suite 200, Fort Worth, TX, 76116. Phone: 817-551-0316.