More volunteers needed because of increase in hospice services

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DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Caring for a dying loved one is hard.

Charlotte Roberts, of Lexington, has been through that experience. She recalls back in September 2010 when her father became a patient at Hospice of Davidson County at the Hinkle Hospice House.

“At first when I was saying hospice, you know to me that seemed so morbid, I guess. But then when I came out here with my dad, that changed my mind,” Roberts said.

She says her dad’s final days were peaceful. Roberts attributes that to hospice workers and volunteers. The care her father got motivated Roberts to get involved with the nonprofit organization. She volunteers at the Hinkle Hospice House once a week.

“If I can give that back, what they gave me and my family when my dad was here, it would make my life worthwhile. So I take this [volunteering] real seriously,” Roberts said.

Hospice of Davidson County Director of Community Relations Jan Knox says volunteers like Roberts are a necessity in hospice care.

"We are so blessed to have our volunteers. They are so dedicated,” Knox said. “They'll visit with patients in their room or in their homes. They'll read to them, they'll have some conversations. A lot of patients like to tell their story.”

Thirteen percent of care provided by Hospice of Davidson County comes from volunteers. Knox says they need more of them to interact with patients on a daily basis because of the increasing use in hospice services. The majority of their patients are served in-home. Knox says patients receiving care in-home or at the inpatient facility have a care team which includes medical providers (a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant), nurses, social workers, hospice aides, volunteers, grief counselors and spiritual counselors.

Research cited by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shows there's been an overall steady increase in hospice services.

Hospice is a term that refers to the philosophy of care. Knox says their organization's goal is to make patients comfortable while focusing on their spiritual, physical and emotional well-being.

“Making really good times with their loved ones in their final days and taking as much stress away from the patient and their family is what we try to do,” Knox said.

When it comes to costs, Knox said hospice care is a benefit that is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, veteran’s benefits and most private insurance it. Some additional billing can occur.

Specifically at Hospice of Davidson County, no one is denied care due to the inability to pay thanks to the support of the community through fundraisers and also because of grants.

Volunteers go through the same orientation process as employees. If you're interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with Hospice of Davidson County, click here.