IN TIMES of need, Carroll County residents tend to reach out, to be there, to care. At Carroll Hospice the concern is obvious. When a loved one is dying, the burden can be overwhelming. That is when hospice volunteers reach out with caring hands, warm words and a wealth of resources to share.
L Now, Carroll Hospice is making a request for new volunteers.
Based in Westminster, Carroll Hospice is a 10-year-old organization that provides support and care, in hospitals and homes, for the terminally ill and their families, and bereavement counseling after the loss of a loved one.
"We believe in the quality of life," said Debbie Zepp, volunteer coordinator. "People have the right to their dignity, to retain control of their lives, and to remain comfortable. We want to provide them with the resources to make that happen. We offer access to pain control, a social worker, a chaplain or physical therapists. We take a holistic approach, looking at the whole being."
Direct-care volunteer Lucy Devese logged more than 200 hours of service in 1995, more hours than any other direct-care volunteer. "For me, the basic thing is to listen," she said. "Just listen, and people will be free with you. They will talk to you and let go. It's very rewarding."
Robert Taylor, another direct-care volunteer, agreed. "We don't offer opinions or advice," he said. "We are trained to just listen and be there."
Mr. Taylor tells of a patient who was homeless during the last few years of his life. "Basically, I was the only one who was there for him," he said, "and I was there when he died."
A common denominator mentioned by volunteers is how terminally ill patients often seem to wait until their hospice volunteer is present before dying. "It's like they want the person who cared for them to be there when they go," Mrs. Zepp said.
Ms. Devese said she has had that experience. There was the time she told the family of one of her patients she would be back in the morning to check in. "But, that evening, when I was doing laundry I had a feeling I should go. And when I walked into the home, the male nurse on duty took my arm. He said, 'She just died.' Somehow I just knew."
Office volunteer Eleanor Latini said she felt she needed to help the hospice after four people who were close to her died.
"I had almost no help," she said, "with very little children. It is tough. It was almost impossible," she said, fighting back tears.
"I work in the office because that is best for me. [The direct-care volunteers] are a special breed, like nurses. I think they are born with the ability to do this. I tip my hat to them," Ms. Latini said.
Patients are referred to Carroll Hospice by families, social workers, clergymen and, most often, doctors. The hospice gives the family a respite, and the patient, a friend.
"There are times when the families need to get out, to get their hair done, or to go to a doctor appointment, or just to take a ride," Mrs. Zepp said. "Our volunteers give them an opportunity to get out and take a break."
"We like to compare dying with the birth process," Mrs. Zepp said. "It doesn't have to be scary. It can be a beautiful thing."
Volunteer training sessions include training with experts, including doctors, nurses, social workers and bereavement counselors. "The training is very good. I recommend it to everyone over 21," said Mrs. Zepp.
Ms. Devese agreed. "I never left a training session without something I could use in life," she said.
Mr. Taylor added, "Taking the training does not obligate you to become a volunteer. If you find it isn't right for you that's all right."
Carroll Hospice offers volunteer training in the spring and in the fall. The next training session will run from March 18 through June 10.
For more information on how to become a volunteer, call 857-1838 or 876-8044, or stop by the office at 95 Carroll St.,
Ensemble teaches history
In celebration of African-American History Month, Carroll County Women on the Move Inc. will sponsor The People, a Baltimore ensemble that teaches the history of African-Americans through poetry, song, dance and drama.
This event will take place in the cafe area of Carroll Community College at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Lois Szymanski's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears on Mondays in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.