Canton, Ohio: Nora Valin was visiting her mother at a nursing home. Across the hall, an elderly woman was dying – alone. Valin, who felt torn, says, “Someone should have been with the woman during her final moments. It felt so wrong. No one should die alone.”
That vivid memory led Valin, a Massillon resident, to Mercy Hospice and its 11th Hour program, a specially trained group of volunteers who provide on-call, 24/7 care when a patient’s death appears imminent. As listeners, companions and supporters, they provide a sense of presence that’s intended to reduce the anxiety and fear of patients and their loved ones.
Chuck Haubert, also from Massillon, began volunteering for Mercy Hospice after his wife of 40 years died from brain tumors. He says he wanted to give back because of the good care Mercy Hospice nurses provided.
“My dear wife Vi was the best companion, friend and nurse,” he says. “But as her condition worsened, I felt overwhelmed. Mercy Hospice nurses made Vi as comfortable as possible and gave me everything I needed. They took the time to explain the process to me. I wanted to repay them.”
More than 4,000 hospice care providers and their 550,000 volunteers provide care to over a million terminally ill patients in the United States. Volunteers like those at Mercy Hospice do more than perform a service. They have a passion and a calling to care for the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of terminally ill patients and their families.
In addition to being with patients during their last moments, Valin also assists with bereavement follow-up and support for families, which hospice provides for up to 13 months after a death. She describes her volunteer work as a spiritual experience and says she receives more than she gives. “Being a part of respite care is so fulfilling,” Valin adds. “It is truly a privilege to be with patients when they are birthed into new life. We want them to know they have loved, that they are loved and that their life was meaningful.”
Haubert recalls one special patient who loved red birds more than anything. He placed a bird feeder outside her nursing home window, and she was delighted to see more red birds than she could count. After the woman died, her niece contacted Haubert to let him know how much his gesture of kindness had meant.
He says, “I want to make people smile, and I know God gave me this plan. I didn’t know if I could do it, but I love it and I give it my best every week.”
Valin and Haubert are two of the 65 volunteers who make Mercy Hospice the caring and compassionate program it is today. The Mercy Hospice program is dedicated to helping patients with a life-limiting illness achieve the best quality of life possible while offering respite and comfort to their caregivers and loved ones. Serving adults and children with a terminal illness, hospice gives patients the opportunity to remain at home, or in a home-like setting, with the people and things they cherish most. For more information about Mercy Hospice, or to learn about volunteering opportunities, please call 330-649-4380 or visit cantonmercy.org.
Mercy Medical Center, a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System, operates a 476-bed hospital serving Stark, Carroll, Wayne, Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties and parts of Southeastern Ohio. It has 620 members on its Medical Staff and employs 2,500 people. Mercy operates outpatient health centers in Carrollton, Jackson Township, Lake Township, Louisville, North Canton, Plain Township and Tuscarawas County. A Catholic hospital, Mercy Medical Center upholds the mission and philosophy of the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine and continues to be responsive to the needs of the community. For more information, see cantonmercy.org.
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