Social workers and volunteers give care to elderly

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November has historically been a time of giving.

Since the earliest days of American history when natives and pilgrims sat down for the first Thanksgiving feast, the month has been synonymous with giving care to others.

The month of November also happens to be National Hospice/Palliative Care Month. Professionals and volunteers alike use this time to raise awareness of the hospice organization.

Hospice and palliative care is offered to patients who have incurable ailments. The goal is to provide dignity and care to those who are nearing the end of their lives.

Jenna Simmons, junior in social work, said that there is much more to hospice than just working with the terminally ill. Simmons started volunteering at Homecare and Hospice in September. The process began with a five-week training program to learn about the effects of certain diseases on the body.

She said her job consists mostly of transporting clients to doctor appointments when they are unable to drive themselves.

“I haven’t worked with a terminally ill client yet, but my great-grandmother had hospice care when she was dying, and it was a great experience for me to watch that,” Simmons said. “That is how I became interested in it. Also, I am a social work major, and we are required to have 100 hours of volunteering at a social service agency. Hospice was immediately my first choice.”

Becky Vaughn, sophomore in psychology, started volunteering with hospice last spring after seeing an ad in the Collegian. She said she realized that if she were in the same position as the hospice clients, she would want someone to come visit her or take her on errands to make the time she had left the very best it could possibly be.

Vaughn currently chauffeurs a couple and takes them on errands since they are unable to drive themselves.

“The best part about working with hospice is that you are truly appreciated for the help that you give,” Vaughn said. “Everyone at Homecare and Hospice is so thankful to have you on their volunteer team, and the clients themselves are also very thankful for your help. You can instantly see that you are making a difference, and that feels good.”

Dan Clayton, K-State alumnus and social worker at Homecare and Hospice, said he has always preferred to work with the older population. He said there are many rewards in his job, one of which is that he has gained a new perspective about life and priorities.

“Hospice is not about death,” Clayton said. “It is about life, dignity, and how one has lived. The goal under hospice is to provide the quality of life at the end of life. The hardest part of my job is not having clients long enough to help them and their families come to terms with dying or deal with the unresolved issues we all have in our lives.”

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