MARION — What do you think of when you hear the term hospice?
Donna Cunetto and Rita Spiller of Hospice of Southern Illinois say most people think of death, or doom and gloom.
“They’re a little afraid of it (because of that perception). It’s not doom and gloom. It’s very fulfilling,” Cunetto said.
The mission of Hospice of Southern Illinois is simply to enhance the quality of life for individuals and their loved ones touched by a terminal illness. There is one thing they need to help fulfill that mission — more volunteers.
“We are always in need of volunteers. We never have too many. Volunteers are the only way we provide services for our patients,” said Spiller, volunteer services supervisor. "Volunteers are very, very important at Hospice of Southern Illinois.”
So, what do the organization’s volunteers do? Volunteers are needed for clerical support, filing and data entry, health fairs, community education, fundraising, bereavement services, spiritual support, vigil support and patient support. Volunteers sew, bake, work in the garden, or put together packets for nurses.
Volunteers offer companion care, which is simply visiting with the patient. Some of the companion care activities include reading to the patient, playing cards, listening to music or just reminiscing. Cunetto says it is doing something the patient likes to do but may not be able to do alone, like reading books by a favorite author.
They also offer respite care for caregivers. If a patient needs constant care, a caregiver may have a hard time going to the grocery store or pharmacy, getting a haircut or attending an event.
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Another popular request is for spiritual care. Patients want someone to read scripture or pray with them.
“There’s so many different things people can volunteer to do,” Cunetto said.
Spiller added that some volunteers only do patient care; others only do events. Some do both. Volunteers who only do events may know patient care is not for them. Spiller said that is OK.
At any given time, Hospice of Southern Illinois has about 100 patients in the southernmost 17 counties of the state and about 40 volunteers. Cunetto said the biggest need is for volunteers in Saline and Jackson counties, but stressed that volunteers are needed throughout the region.
“We try to match volunteers and patients according to the area," Cunetto said. "We try to stay within 15 miles of the volunteer’s home."
Of course, they get requests from counties where there are no volunteers. She will send an email and ask if anyone is willing to go. Usually, someone steps up to cover.
Volunteers are required to complete an eight-hour training class and give at least eight hours of time to Hospice each year. Some volunteers will log up to 500 hours per year. The organization plans to offer volunteer training every other month in its Marion office beginning in February or March.
“It’s is a very rewarding opportunity," Spiller said. "Most people would think the patients is really receiving gifts from the volunteer, but we come away getting more than the patient. It’s a very special opportunity we have."