One thing is for sure: volunteers at Heart to Heart Hospice have big hearts.
Located in Swartz Creek, Heart to Heart Hospice provides compassionate, quality care and supportive services for people with life-limiting illnesses and their loved ones. “We strive to enhance the lives of our patients by aggressively managing their pain and symptoms, helping to alleviate any discomfort associated with their terminal illness or disease,” says Diane Nims, Executive Director. A team of nurses, social workers, chaplains, volunteers and massage therapists all work together to make this happen. “Our philosophy is that our patients live life to the fullest and are comfortable to the end,” adds Candy Leitheim, Volunteer Coordinator.
There are two types of hospice volunteers: direct and administrative. “The most important thing a volunteer does is provide companionship for patients,” Candy shares. “They also give support to family members.” Loved ones can’t always be there to care for the patient, so a volunteer can be assigned to visit. Volunteers will talk with family members and the patient to find out what they like to do. Volunteers read, play board games, take the patient outside to get some fresh air, or watch a movie – anything the patient might enjoy doing. “One of our patients was a champion checkers player,” Candy remembers. So, volunteers played checkers with him. They will also find out what type of music a patient enjoys. “Music therapy is amazing,” says the coordinator. Volunteers may do light housekeeping at a patient’s home, run errands and provide transportation, if needed.
“Our philosophy is that our patients live life to the fullest and are comfortable to the end.”
Candy Leitheim, Volunteer Coordinator
Shannon and Maryanna Langley are both 80 years old and have worked as a direct volunteer team for 20 years.”They love it!” Candy exclaims, “and they are so appreciated.” Catherine Kipfer is an administrative volunteer for Heart to Heart. She helps the clerical staff in the office, doing filing and handling charts. She received both office and patient training and has visited patients in an adult foster care home, which she found very rewarding. “The way the people at Heart to Heart care for their patients is wonderful,” Catherine says.
Currently, there are 43 compassionate and caring volunteers at Heart to Heart, and many say they receive much more from the experience than they give. Many of them go the “extra mile” to make sure a patient is comfortable. “Candy does such a wonderful job recruiting volunteers,” Diane says. “She makes them feel like part of a team and lets them know how important it is for them to provide the best end-of-life experience, knowing they are part of it.”
Those interested in becoming a hospice volunteer at Heart to Heart must attend a three-hour orientation and training, plus ongoing training. During orientation, they learn what a volunteer can and cannot do. What volunteers can’t do is provide medical or hands-on care, lift patients, or dispense any medication. According to Candy, volunteers typically commit to four hours per week, and work volunteer hours around their schedules. Patients they assist can be living in a private home, nursing home, assisted living facility or adult foster care home. “They want to be treated like a person, not a patient,” Candy says, “and that’s what our volunteers do. They respect the patient’s beliefs, ethics and values.”
Heart to Heart has had many long-time volunteers. “They come from all walks of life,” Candy smiles. “Once they find their niche, they stay and find it to be very rewarding. It’s a good life experience.”
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer, contact Volunteer Coordinator Candy Leitheim at 810.422.9453.