Appreciation event highlights important role hospice volunteers play in Alaska

Appreciation event highlights important role hospice volunteers play in Alaska
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 9:58 AM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - For the past six years, Mimi Peabody has helped patients navigate their end-of-life journey as a hospice volunteer, working with a new family approximately every year.

“Each one is unique,” Peabody said. “Some patients I have, I’ve never even had a conversation with ... Other patients, I’ve developed a wonderful friendship with.”

During her time with patients, Peabody, a volunteer with Ancora Home, Health and Hospice in Wasilla, builds special relationships with her patients by reading with them and watching some of their favorite television shows. Her work plays a vital role in patient’s lives.

“Keep it upbeat and positive, and keep them comfortable at home,” Maria Guyon, a hospice volunteer coordinator, said.

But volunteers also serve as a second set of eyes at the patient’s home, making sure that no neglect or abuse is occurring.

“I can come in and notice, you know, things that maybe didn’t get done,” Peabody said. “Often, I don’t see anything like that, but I feel like it could be easier for a caregiver to talk to me about things they might not feel comfortable talking to a healthcare provider.”

On Tuesday, Ancora hosted an appreciation party in honor of National Volunteer Week, thanking their 12 volunteers for all the work they do.

“It’s just so important the work that they do, and they volunteer their time, “Guyon said. “Takes a lot of effort for them to continue their education constantly, and schedule around their busy lives,” Guyon said.

Ancora’s party included a free meal and a chance for volunteers to get additional hours of training. Hospice volunteers are required to log 24 hours of training before starting their position, then must add additional hours of training a year, according to officials with the hospice.

Tuesday’s lessons focused on abuse and neglect, one of the important things volunteers try to prevent. It’s a lesson to help families not enter a situation where neglect could happen — for example, if a family begins to experience burnout from all the extended care their loved one needs.

“I can come back and talk to a hospice staff person at Ancora and let them know what’s going on and they can provide extra support if the caregiver doesn’t feel comfortable reaching out,” Peabody said.

Guyon said those who are interested in getting involved as hospice volunteer can reach out to their local hospice center to seek information.

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