■ BY SUSAN ERWIN
Hospice volunteers provide care and support for people during the most challenging times of their lives. They treat the patient physically, socially and spiritually from many different aspects. And more volunteers are always needed to make sure every person in need receives care.
Hope Healthcare Services and Tidewell Hospice are the two organizations that provide hospice services to the residents of Boca Grande. They offer programs for volunteers to get certified to provide these important services. But to receive the required training, those interested usually have to travel to Fort Myers or northern parts of Charlotte County.
For the first time ever, a team of professionals are getting together to offer a one-day training to get certified right here in Boca Grande. The training is scheduled from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at the Boca Grande Community Center. There is no charge, but pre-registration is required. Hope Healthcare has teamed up with the Boca Grand Health Clinic to provide a program so new volunteers can get certified without traveling to various locations.
Bob Sheehan, Director of Community Engagement at Hope Healthcare Services, said this program is very beneficial to the community because he would like to create a group of volunteers who actually live in Boca Grande who are here to take care of each other. “To have a credentialed certified volunteer in Boca Grande would be a tremendous asset to this community, since we have none now,” Sheehan said. “If new volunteers attend this program we will actually be able to achieve this goal, and we absorb all of the costs.”
Sheehan said all volunteers who have patient contact must have training and the credentials must be maintained in order for the volunteer to remain active. They must pass a level two background check, including fingerprints and an FBI clearance as well as get tested for tuberculosis. Hope Healthcare takes care of the background check and the Boca Grande Health Clinic will do the TB tests.
Sheehan said the organization has to match a minimum of 5 percent of all clinical hours with volunteer hours to get Medicare reimbursement. “We are very fortunate here – we obtain almost 10 percent here. We have such wonderful folks who live here and volunteer and this equates to about three million dollars each year in savings – tremendous savings to the hospice program,” he said. “And we provide services regardless of the ability to pay.” Volunteers in several categories are needed. “There are more than 20 various roles in which folks can volunteer; social visits, transportation, administrative workers – even cookie bakers, Sheehan said.” Volunteers are also needed for the “11th Hour” program for people who are dealing with end of life illnesses. These important volunteers make sure patients are never alone at the end.
Grace Ott, Licensed Certified Social Worker at My Halo in Boca Grande, said the main goal of the program is to educate the community. “We want to provide awareness and educational programs to attempt to offer residents the opportunity to learn about end of life options,” Ott said.
A “What Matters At The End” program is being offered from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16 at the Boca Grande Community Center. There is no cost to attend. Ott said the program will have medical, social, financial and legal resources as well as give some insight into how physicians and hospitals staff open difficult discussions between patients, family members and clinicians. “The goal is that people will have a better understanding and get their decisions in writing so their family members know they are honoring their wishes,” Ott said.
Hope Healthcare provides a whole realm of professional disciplinaries who provide care to the patient and for family members. “We discuss Veterans care, Alzheimer’s and dementia, HIPPA, confidentiality, psychosocial issues, family dynamics, cultural diversity and bereavement,” Sheehan said. “During the year we will schedule additional classes because there is so much information to cover during the orientation process.”
Sheehan said even if you are not sure you want to commit to becoming a volunteer, you are still welcome to attend the training. “What happens in the end eventually affects all of us, so taking some time to get educated now will only help in the future,” Sheehan said. Samira Beckwith, President and CEO of Hope Healthcare Services, has been dedicated to the people of Boca Grande for many years. “Hope is committed to providing exceptional care for the residents of the Boca Grande community. We welcome new volunteers who will add even more love and care to our services,” Beckwith said.
If you would like to learn more, consider attending the “What Matters At The End” program on Monday, Nov. 16. There is no cost to attend but pre-registration is required. For more information, call 964-0827.