Hospice Volunteers Call for New Generation to Help

Published: Friday, January 20, 2012






Rosalie, left, and Ed Bennett share their experiences as hospice volunteers at their home in Mount Dora on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.

Rosalie and Ed Bennett were among the early pioneers in hospice back in the 1980s, serving patients near the end of their lives in Connecticut.

Now the Bennetts are just as committed to the cause in Lake County as they volunteer for nonprofit Cornerstone Hospice.

"I was in the first training class," said Rosalie, a graduate of John Hopkins University School of Nursing who was serving as a retired nurse with Visiting Nurses Association when she played a pivotal role in establishing the country's second hospice outside of Hartford, Conn.

"It was about two or three years later when I came home and told Ed that they really need some male volunteers," Rosalie said, inspiring her husband to be the first man to go through hospice training in their former state.

"I didn't know if I could handle being a hospice volunteer," Ed recalled. "I was thinking of dealing with the last days, weeks and months of death. I had never been with my parents in their last days, because they both died suddenly."

He agreed to go for training with the understanding that he would only continue based on his experience with his first patient.

"I had a fantastic first experience," Ed said. He bonded with his first assignment, an Alzheimer's patient and medical doctor who had served in Africa during World War II.

"We talked about his Army experience and what he had done," Ed said, recalling there were times when the patient would flash back to sleeping in a tent in Africa.

"He sat right up in bed and screamed, 'the elephants are sticking their trunks!' and I said, 'OK, sir! I will take care of it, sir," Ed said, telling the patient that the perimeter has been tightly secured and everything was under control. "You can lay back down, Sir. We are safe."

The patient calmed down.

Ed later asked a hospice official if he handled the situation OK.

"She said, 'You handled it just right. You didn't disagree with him; you handled the problem,'" said Ed, who has learned that it's not uncommon for patients on morphine to say that they see something in the room and have hallucinations.

Another time with the doctor patient, Ed recalls the man expressed his appreciation. "He said, 'When I get better, I would like to do what you're doing."

Rosalie cherishes many of her former hospice patients, too, including a woman who wanted to play Bingo one more time. She won the quarter prize and died the following day.

The Bennetts have found being hospice volunteers to be a rewarding experience, a chance to serve as a friend and companion to patients and their families, offering a source of strength, encouragement and support simply by visiting from time to time.

Rosalie noted there are many things volunteers can do besides being in direct contact with patients, such answering the phones, greet guests, perform administrative chores, fundraising and many other activities.

Cornerstone Hospice will offer two-day volunteer training on two consecutive Fridays, Jan. 27 and Feb. 3 at Lake Eustis Christian Church, 315 East Orange Ave., Eustis.

Those taking the course will receive the required certification needed to become a hospice volunteer and help assist in community and special events, veteran recognition projects, visiting patients, sewing projects, etc. Cornerstone Hospice volunteers contribute on what works for them, anywhere from a couple of hours a week or a few days per month.


WHAT: Cornerstone Hospice training for certified volunteers.

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 27 and Feb. 3

WHERE: Lake Eustis Christian Church, 315 East Orange Ave., Eustis.

CALL: Those interested may pre-register by calling volunteer specialist Bettie LoCicero at (352)742-6827; volunteer manager Lisa Gray (352)742-6806 or call toll-free (888)-728-6234.

INFORMATION: Visit www.cornerstonehospice.org or www.SeriousIllness.org/Cornerstone for an overview of hospice services