Watching my parents take care of my grandparents throughout the past years, I struggled when my parents would become frustrated and fed-up with the slowness and unresponsiveness of their own elderly parents. It was difficult to think that one day my own parents will need elderly assistance, and I will be the one to provide them with help. Placing myself in such a scenario where I will be taking care of my own parents was the connection that was most difficult for me to make. Through the Hospice Volunteering program partnering with Compassionate Care Hospice, I was able to experience a similar situation of interacting with elderly. During my time as a hospice volunteer, I learned valuable lessons on how to accommodate the elderly by respecting patients for who they are as people while also acknowledging their special needs as an aging individual.
One of the many lessons I learned while volunteering was how to deal with the sorrow of patients. Often times when I visited my patients they became cheery to have a volunteer give them a visit. My patients appreciated my company and we often times found ourselves talking about the patient’s youth. Talking about the patient’s past brought back great memories that patients could reconnect to, but our conversations of the past also brought up the sorrow of a youthful and happier past left behind. I have also noticed that patients would get teary talking about their youth. They also would say phrases that reveal their sadness of no longer being young. They would say, “I used to be young and have good times, but now I’m old and sick.” During one of my visits with a patient, we played music that the patient used to listen to as a young girl. She enjoyed singing and dancing to the music, but the song also brought tears to her eye as she remembered how she was once youthful but now struggles with sickness. I find it common that elderly patients, especially hospice patients, become sad thinking and talking about their current state of sickness. I learned that to help patients’ overcome their sorrow, the best approach is not necessarily to distract the patients from their present pain, but rather to support them in all states of their emotions. It is important to understand a patient’s emotions and allow him/her to express their sadness if they are willing to do so.
The position as a provider of support becomes difficult when patients are unresponsive or do not seem interested in your help. I learned that interactions with the elderly can often lead to frustrating times. During these times, patience is the key to succeeding in helping the patient. I have grown to become more understanding of patients’ individual needs. Patience is easily implemented when you attempt to connect to your patient on a deeper and personal level. Once I learned that each patient is not just another number in a geriatric care home, but instead an individual patient with dire needs and emotions, then I could fully connect to my patient to provide emotional support. I have learned that even though some patients’ health and aging conditions place them in uncommunicative states, they are each individuals with a personal story. From volunteering with hospice, I have learned to respect elderly individuals by learning to connect with them, even if the connection is difficult to accomplish. I know that the patience I obtained and the experience of dealing with sorrow will aid in my future interactions with patients.