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Kindness and Compassion of Hospice Staff and Volunteers Inspire Family to Give Back

The late Alden Palmgren wouldn't be surprised to see his daughter, Anne Deedy, and grandson Matthew Palmgren, both volunteering at the Rose Monahan Hospice Home in Worcester. 

"As a family, it's what we do — we give back. My parents set the tone for that," said Anne. Alden spent his last three months at the Monahan Home, a home-like setting for end-of-life care. The hospice team and volunteers provide physical, emotional, social, practical, and spiritual care to help patients remain comfortable and live with dignity. Loved ones are supported as well. Hospice care is also offered in patients' homes, assisted living facilities, and other settings. 

Matt said, "I just really appreciated how well Rose Monahan (staff) took care of him. You could tell how happy my grandfather was in those last months he was alive. ...I thought if there's anything I can do, donate any small amount of time, that I would do it." 

Anne has volunteered at the residence for more than three years. "What keeps me coming back is the experience we had as a family having a patient at the house... Just the kindness and compassion from the staff, from everybody in the house," she said. 

Anne took comfort in knowing volunteers were there for her Dad between visits from family. She laughed when she remembered her father hinting that family didn't need to visit on Fridays. That time was reserved for hospice volunteer Fred Gay, a former colleague of Alden's at Wyman-Gordon. The two could be found watching Red Sox games together. Alden, picture left, also told Anne about the frequent visits and lengthy conversations he had with other hospice volunteers.

"I thought, that's what I need to do for families who aren't able to be there and for those patients who have no family," said Anne. 

Every volunteer shift is different. Anne and Matt may find themselves helping in the kitchen or other day-to-day household activities as well as visiting with patients and families. 

Matt, who began volunteering earlier this year, said, "I think the more meaningful sessions are when you have the opportunity to sit and talk with a patient for an extended period of time." 

He remembered one patient he connected with during several visits, learning about the man's interests, children, and more. 

Matt said, "One of those visits happened to be very close to when he passed away. He couldn't speak at that point. His wife wanted some respite. I just sat there with him. They teach us that sometimes all you need to do is be there and just be a presence." 

He added, "The staff is unbelievable. They are so good to the patients, but they are also so good to the volunteers. Any question we have, they are great about answering." 

Volunteer Opportunities

Hospice volunteer opportunities are available at VNA Care's three hospice residences as well as at patients' homes in Eastern and Central Massachusetts. Volunteers receive training and ongoing supervision and support. For more information, please call Volunteer Services at 781-569-2811. 

Volunteer opportunities are also available on VNA Care's Community Cabinets and Friends groups, which raise awareness of and charitable support for hospice and home health care. To learn more, please contact Karen Webber, director of fund development, at 508-573-8027. 

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