Brenda Short doesn’t have a magic wand, but some of the patients and families she has served as a Heritage Hospice volunteer think she does.
Her gift is just listening carefully to what the family tells her and acting to fulfill some of its requests. One nursing home patient wished for a Coke because that type of soft drink was not available in the facility.
Short told her patient she needed to run out for a minute. After a quick trip to a nearby grocery, she reappeared with the beverage her patient craved.
“I always say that hospice volunteers are put in place to maybe not give you what you need but what you want,” says Short, who originally took training in the 1970s but has been an active volunteer for five years.
Before Short leaves her job as a case manager for Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center, she often makes a call to see if there is anything her family might desire.
“They often are confined to their house. They might say they would love a McDonald’s hamburger.”
When she served Ronald Luster and his wife, Kaye, she discovered that he loved McDonald’s coffee and brought it to him on her visits.
She made many visits to the Lusters, who lived near her Hustonville home, sometimes twice a week.
“I think the closer you live then the more successful you will be,” she notes.
Currently, Heritage Hospice, which serves Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties, needs volunteers in southern Lincoln County.
Volunteers usually make a two- to three-hour visit each week allowing the caregiver to leave the home and run some errands. Short says Mrs. Luster rarely left the side of her husband of 42 years. Most of their visits were spent sharing stories, but it was time they all enjoyed.
“It was having someone else to talk to. They want to share their stories. To me, it’s like listening to some of the greatest storytellers who have ever lived.”
Many times though, her work is as simple as providing companionship.
“I think in families they want just a little bit of normalcy.”
Whether a family asks her to simply read to a patient or sit quietly at a bedside, Short says she benefits.
“You cannot have a bad day after leaving these families. They do not complain. They do not wish their life away.”
At first Mrs. Luster was hesitant to have a volunteer in her home, but Short already had worked with the family of Mr. Luster’s brother, Pete. His wife, Pat, encouraged Kaye to let a volunteer be part of the Heritage Hospice team approach to providing end-of-life care.
Kaye Luster remembers that Short came highly recommended by her sister-in-law.
“She said, ‘I hope you all can get Brenda because I knew you and Ronald would just love Brenda to death.’”
Luster has many fond memories of the visits.
“We sat here and would eat, laugh and go on. She would volunteer to do anything for us.”
Short says in addition to talking, she had another wonderful role.
“I would be baking cakes and have her to sample them,” Luster says.
Luster says she thought of Short at Christmas when she wanted to decorate her husband’s grave for the holiday. She located a small tree that Short had given them because their living room was too full of hospital equipment to put up a regular-sized tree.
“I thought, ‘Brenda, you are going to come in handy again.’ I took that tree and put it on Ronald’s grave.”
Although Luster valued Short’s companionship, she also appreciated the other services provided by Heritage Hospice staff.
“I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had the girls coming in and helping give Ronald a bath. Everything that they did we appreciated so much. And the kids just loved them to death. They said, ‘Mom, they are worth a million.’”
Short wants anyone considering taking the volunteer class to know that there are many ways to help other than patient care, such as working in the office or helping with events like the annual plant sale.
“There is still a myth that the only way to volunteer is patient care.”
Short says she gets as much as she gives as a volunteer.
“I always felt like we need to give back in some way or another. You add a better quality to your life.”
Hospice offers volunteer training
Heritage Hospice Inc. will have volunteer training from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 23 at the hospice building, 120 Enterprise Drive.
Hospice volunteers can give as little or as much time as they want. Some volunteers donate several hours each week while others commit to a few hours each month. Opportunities include clerical work, patient visits, fundraising events and special events.
Each person thinking about volunteering can call (859) 236-2425 or (800) 203-6633 to schedule a time to talk with Wendy Hellard, director of volunteer services, or volunteer coordinator Maureen Draut to discuss their interest and availability. All levels of commitment are welcome. Register by Feb. 14.