By Elizabeth Underwood
The Rockbridge Area Hospice needs more volunteers to visit with patients in their homes, hospitals or other care facilities. The volunteers usually read books aloud or just sit and talk to hospice patients, who are terminally ill.
The Lexington-based hospice serves about 30 patients each month.
Hospice care helps improve the quality of life, for both the patient and family, according to research by the National Institute of Health.
The Rockbridge Report spoke to Christine Hopkins, volunteer programs manager at the local hospice, to find out more about her work and how people can get involved.
How did you become interested in working at Rockbridge Area Hospice?
My dream was always to be in hospice. I’m from Madrid, Spain, and over there I was a nurse, but we never had a hospice. When I came to this country, I became very interested in the philosophy of hospice, so I worked towards my goal.
What do you think the hospice means to families and patients?
Not everybody is ready for hospice, and the reason is because nobody wants to talk about dying. The funny thing for me is that it is a part of life, so you need to talk about it and you need to know what you want. Some families really understand what we do at hospice, so they accept us right away. Some families want to be able to try it out and then decide to stay.
What do the employees and staff at the hospice hope to provide for the patients?
Well, it’s patient and family comfort. It’s all about them, not about us, but it’s a very unique environment … it’s all very spiritual. When you come to this place, the people open their homes and their hearts to you. We’re trying to the best of our ability to make the family and patient feel comfortable.
What do you think is the importance of volunteers working at the hospice?
A lot of volunteers come and want to do patient care because they have history, so they saw what happened and want to give back. They feel comfortable thinking about the idea of being with someone who is getting ready to go and thinking: ‘I’m going to do something special for this person and learn what this person likes. I’m going to offer that to them every time I come to see them, like bring music, a cat, a chicken, or even read a book or just hold a hand.’ Volunteers take very seriously what they do because this is very personal.
Can you share a memorable time from your work here?
Well, I love my job every day, but I love what I take with me every day when I go home. I do get sad, but I also realize that when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. When somebody looks at you and says, ‘thank you for being here’ and they smile, even though they don’t feel well, or they say ‘Oh, I was expecting you. I knew that you were coming,’ little things like that just make your day.
How has your experience working here affected your life?
Well, very much. I think that I’ve been preparing for this position throughout my life because I always liked to serve people. Part of our journey is the process of growing up. When you are old and done with everything that you need to do in your life is when you start getting tired and when you’re ready to go. For some people, when it gets closer to the end of life, some people hold on and some people go fast, and the people who hold on need to say ‘goodbye’ or they need to say ‘I’m sorry.’ We all have to go through this process.
How can people get involved with volunteering at hospice?
You can volunteer with patients, in patient care, at the front desk or at events. You can go online, call us here, or stop by and ask for me. The volunteers are the ones here who meet very unique people. You realize that talking to this person, this person might’ve been an artist or might have known a famous singer. There are very unique people in this little town, but you don’t know until you go and volunteer one hour a week and learn about that person. You only need two things to be a volunteer at hospice: one is a big heart and the other is to have time.
For more information on how to volunteer at Rockbridge Area Hospice, call (540) 463-1848 or visit https://www.rockbridgeareahospice.org.