“All you need is warmth, empathy and a kind heart.”

Gary Goerk, Volunteer and Spiritual Coordinator at St. Barnabas Health System Hospice, explains that while the thought of spending time with individuals who are aging and even nearing death can be daunting, it is also an amazing opportunity to put a smile on patients’ faces and provide their families with peace of mind.

On Friday, October 28th from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows will host a free volunteer training at 5130 Tuscarawas Rd., Beaver, Pa. 15009. The training aims to produce volunteers who are committed to compassionately meeting the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of patients. A light lunch will be provided, and certificates of completion will be awarded upon conclusion of training.

The session will cover various volunteer opportunities, including hospice care visits, on-site recreation, outings, movie nights, crafts and happy hour. Topics will include:

  • Introduction to activity and hospice volunteer opportunities at St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows
  • Volunteer processes and practices
  • Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Relating to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and their families
  • Communication and support skills
  • Education on grief and bereavement

While the training will cover many volunteer opportunities, hospice will be a significant focus of the training session. When a person is admitted to hospice with a terminal illness, St. Barnabas focuses on the patient and his or her family rather than on the disease. The interdisciplinary team provides comprehensive care with a focus on restoring dignity and personal fulfillment through pain management, personal choices, listening and caring. This model creates an emotional and spiritual space in which patients can live their remaining days as comfortably as possible. It also facilitates meaningful visits with family members during a very difficult time.

Volunteers play an important role, and they are welcome to lend their time and talents however they can. Musicians may bring their instruments and play for patients a few hours a week, while those with a spiritual background can read Bible verses and pray with patients. Other volunteers spend time looking through photo albums with the patient, or they simply sit beside them and hold their hands. This flexibility is appealing to volunteers, as it allows them to design a volunteer routine that is tailored to their schedule, abilities and comfort level.

“I like spending time with the people and listening to them,” said a current hospice volunteer. “You just have to be yourself.” The volunteer, who was a nurse for 15 years, said many people dismiss hospice patients because they are near death. She has found her volunteer experience to be positive and uplifting.

Goerk agrees. “Our patients value the personal connections they make with volunteers, especially hospice volunteers, and they truly enjoy and appreciate the company. That connection is so important to our patients and their families.”

For more information on volunteer opportunities at St. Barnabas Beaver Meadows or to register for the activities and hospice volunteer training, contact Katie Schneider at 724-495-1600. Alternate accommodations can be made for anyone who cannot attend on Oct. 28.