Pallavi Madhira is the volunteer coordinator at Sparsh Hospice. Her vitality and boundless enthusiasm create positive energy vibes at the hospice and provide solace to the dying and their families.
Volunteering at a Hospice: What it means to me People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community or make a difference to the people around them. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge. When I tell people I volunteer at a hospice, the first thing most people say is, "isn't that depressing?" My response is always to tell them that hospice is not depressing, in fact it is the opposite; it is loving, it is compassionate and it is uplifting. Hospice allows someone to choose how they want to live when there is limited time left.
When faced with a terminal illness and imminent death, choices can be limiting for both the patient and their family. We follow the doctor's plans, advice, and the path they lay out for us. We usually have little say in how or when things happen. We endure all of it just to keep our loved one just a little while longer. But sometimes that is not possible and we are left with one decision; would you like to be in an unfamiliar hospital, hooked up to machines, surrounded by unfamiliar nurses and doctors or even worse, be alone? Or would you like to be comfortable and pain free, surrounded by the people you loved most in life? When considered objectively most people would choose the second option, so why don't more patients and families choose hospice? It's the same reasons I get asked if my job is depressing: fear. Fear of death and fear of the pain that death might bring to us. Our amazing hospice staff provides that person and their family a choice in how to spend those last moments together. And that is always beautiful. For this reason I wish more people would avail the services of a hospice. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. There is no financial gain involved for the individual. However research has clearly proven that volunteering activities have manifold benefits for the volunteers. In fact people who volunteer have a reduced incidence of depression, stress, hospitalization, pain and psychological distress!!
This suggests that multiple social roles provide meaning and purpose in life, and promote social support and interaction. Sociologists Piliavin & Siegl contend that volunteering is a focus outside ourselves that makes the greatest contribution to our mental health and well-being, not just as a result of enhanced self-esteem but as a result of mattering' - feeling that we are a significant part of the world around us and that people notice, care about and value our existence. So finally to answer the question: what do I feel about my job? This short poem by Emily Dickinson says it all for me.If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain, I shall not live in vain; Or help one fainting robin, Unto his nest again, l shall not live in vain. - Emily Dickinson, "Complete Poems"