My Time at Haverford

During my time as a hospice volunteer, I visited Haverford Hospice to see my patient, Valerie. She is a lovely 80-year-old with a fondness for art and music. However, because she has Alzheimer’s disease, she cannot articulate herself clearly and often expresses herself with grunts and one-syllable words. At first, it took me a while to understand the way she spoke, but shortly I began to pick up on her different cues. Sometimes during my visits, I would read a book to her while she slept. Other times, I would hold her hand while I listened to her talk. Every week, I always looked forward to seeing her staying healthy.
Hospices are a unique community and at Haverford, I saw people from all walks of life together, eating lunch or watching TV. I was happy to see everyone being well taken care of, spending their last days with kindness and comfort. One of my favorite things was seeing family members visit the patients and watching the look of delight on the patients’ faces. It gave me joy knowing that even though they weren’t home, they weren’t left out. However, although I often left the hospice with a sense of contentment, I also sometimes walked out with a feeling of uneasiness. For example, there were days when Valerie seemed upset and was yelling more than usual. Or when I saw another patient who was once smiling and talking, suddenly sullen and having to use an oxygen tank to breathe. Or when a patient I often spoke to began losing his memory. These moments reminded me how close death is and how quickly time passes. The patients reminded me of my grandparents and how one day they too could be staying in a hospice. After all, despite all the smiles we put on when we walk into the hospice, we know that it is a place where people go when they are dying. And that’s a very scary thought.
This experience gave me a closer look into the process of aging and the chance to learn how to cope with the concepts of death. It also taught me how to show more compassion and how to comfort people. Now, more than ever, I want to be a doctor so I can help people in need. I also learned that being a volunteer is not about yourself; it’s about doing things for others, showing them a little more light in this world.