'End of life is not a scary thing.' Hospices facing volunteer shortage, asking community for help

Posted at 10:25 AM, Sep 07, 2021

(WXYZ) — For Judy Macklem, being a hospice volunteer means giving caregivers a chance to take that much-needed break.

"Being a caregiver, I'm convinced, is the hardest job on the planet," said Macklem, an Arbor Hospice volunteer. "I may go into the home for two to three hours every, I go every week and give them time ... if they just want to take a nap, if they want to go grocery shopping, go have coffee with a friend and just stay with their loved ones."

It's that love and that care, that Arbor Hospice relies on throughout the communities they serve.

"When I think of our volunteers, they're just this light that really restores my faith in humanity and in a very sincere way," said Alana Knoppow, volunteer program manager for Arbor Hospice.

Alana said volunteers are needed now more than ever.

"We've always had a great need for volunteers, but with the pandemic, you know, not all of our current volunteers have been comfortable with returning to visit. So we're looking to fill those gaps. And we've also been seeing much higher numbers of patients than ever before. So that just increases the need even further," she said.

From listening to patients, playing music for them or bringing a pet to visit, Alana said there are many ways to help.

"Any way that you want to open your heart and be with someone, we probably have a place for you," she said.

Barry Cargill, president and CEO of the Michigan HomeCare and Hospice Association, which represents about 50 hospice organizations across the state, said they’re also feeling the need.

"They are struggling, but it's more than just volunteers. It's all across the board. It's health care workers," he said.

Alana said Arbor Hospice is looking for volunteers particularly in Jackson, Livingston, Lenawee and Western Wayne counties.

"We go to where the patients are. So they're in their own homes, nursing homes, wherever they call home. We come to them," she said.

And if you’re considering volunteering, there’s something Judy, who has been giving back to Arbor Hospice families for six years, wants you to know.

"End of life is not a scary thing. As I've told people who say, 'how can you do that? Because you know how it's going to end,' and my thinking about that is that the end of life should be as beautiful and meaningful as the beginning of life," she said. "I would say to anybody who's thinking about it, 'it would be the best thing that you do.'"

Alana said there is training for volunteers, and you will have someone with you on that first visit to help you ease into the work.

To inquire about becoming a volunteer for Arbor Hospice and find out more about the application process, click here.