SouthernCare seeks volunteers for hospice program

Published 5:11 pm Friday, June 29, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

SouthernCare Hospice Services is looking for volunteers who would like to help make a difference in people’s lives.

SouthernCare volunteer coordinator Lisa Nicholas, who covers Chilton, Shelby, Bibb and Autauga counties, said that hospice was founded on volunteers.

“It’s my job to coordinate our volunteers with our patients’ needs,” she said. “I also go to facilities, do crafts, play bingo and things like that.”

Nicholas said 5 percent of the hours the organization commits to hospice services must be volunteer hours, a Medicare rule.

“We need bodies,” she said. “We need people to make phone calls to our patients. We need people to go to a facility and play bingo, help with a craft, read books, mail a card, take a present, just anything that you can think of that might make someone feel comfortable. If you have an hour a month, two days a month or whatever, we will take you. You don’t have to come up with your own bingo prizes, art projects or books. Everything is provided. We just need people and their time.”

Anyone who would like to volunteer for the program has to pass a background check before being able to join.

“We treat you like an employee,” Nicholas said. “You have to look at both sides of the coin. If it was your loved one, and someone was coming into their home, you would want to make sure that person was completely checked out. That’s what we do. We have a screening process.”

Anyone can volunteer for the program, including children or young adults.

“If the volunteer is a minor, we generally take their mother and the minor comes with,” Nicholas said. “People love children. They can come in at 16 with a parent’s signature and be their own volunteer.”

While helping others is its own reward, hours spent volunteering in the hospice program may be of benefit to different groups.

“A lot of civic organizations require volunteer hours, and our hours count,” said Nicholas. “It looks good on a resume. I have several high school students who volunteer. (To) the people in the healthcare classes at Jeff State, this is real life. It would really benefit them and our patients.”

Anyone interested can call Nicholas at (205) 415-8083.

According to Nicholas, the services provided by hospice have changed.

“Hospice gets a bad rap,” she said. “In the past, people would call hospice right at the end of life. They have rewritten the regulations, so now with hospice you don’t have to be actively dying to enter, you just have to have a terminal diagnosis.”

Hospice serves a role different from that of a nursing home.

“We take a comfort approach to healthcare rather than a curative approach,” Nicholas said. “Therefore, people are in hospice longer. There are benefits to being in hospice. We provide things like equipment and medicines.

“Sometimes our volunteers have a skill, so they might go give them a haircut or paint their nails. We can deliver meals and call and check on patients. I like to go to patients’ houses on their birthdays and have a birthday party.”

SouthernCare takes part in a program called Hospice For Heroes, where veterans are “showered with honor, love and compassion during the last phases of life.”

“We go to the veterans’ homes and salute them,” Nicholas said. “We partner with DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Chapter 33 and We Honor Veterans, a national organization that honors veterans.

“We always want to pay tribute to our service men and women. At hospice, at the end of life, we still want to thank the veterans for what they have done. It’s very important to recognize our veterans.”

Nicholas said she likes herself and her volunteers to able to “reach out and love on” people who are no longer able to get out and do the things that they enjoy.

“Most of them have been community members, and because of illness, they can’t really get out into the community,” she said. “So, we need to bring the community to them, and treat them with dignity and respect, and show them they are still viable people and they deserve whatever we can give them. We add life to days when days can’t be added to life.”