Community Connections: Hospice offers hope
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Connection with others is a fundamental need for all people, and the end of life is no different. Through the Northwest Colorado Health Hospice program, specially trained volunteers are able to connect with patients and offer additional assistance for families. In the wake of COVID-19, volunteers have shifted from providing this support in-person to calling patients or writing letters. Some volunteers have formed positive relationships with many patients via phone for months, sometimes spanning miles that would normally keep them from connecting in person.
For hospice volunteer Janet Panebaker, this shift has allowed her to be more active with volunteering than normal. “Connecting with someone over the phone works so well because it takes pressure off the patient,” said Panebaker. “If you aren’t feeling well, you don’t have to worry about how you look or feel before someone comes to visit, you can connect on your own time over the phone whenever you feel like having company.”
Hospice staff connects a patient with a volunteer based on mutual interests, something Janet says is like having someone personally pick out a friend for both sides. “The experience for both the volunteer and hospice patient can be so deep, because we trust the connection and that it will be a good fit,” said Panebaker. Recently, a mutual love of horses brought Janet and Linda together.
“Linda had a very diverse background growing up with horses, and I have always loved horses and now own my first one,” said Panebaker. “We also both loved dogs, so we would talk about dog training and share little vignettes about what our dogs were up to. Even though I wouldn’t have recognized her if I bumped into her, it felt like I was there with her.”
“Over time, we really talked about everything. She would share about her treatments, or her experience at the hospital, stories about her daughters, and even religious beliefs. Even if we hadn’t talked in a while, we could always pick up right where we left off. I’ve found in my time volunteering with hospice, that it is such a gift for the patient to just be open and able to share at the end of life. Linda was this way, and she was really the one that made this connection so wonderful.”
“After she passed away, I received a text from her daughter thanking me and letting me know how grateful Linda had been for our phone calls. It really meant so much to me to have that closure and know that I had helped be a friend for her.”
“While the many changes from COVID-19 have kept our hospice staff and volunteers on their toes, our grounding principle remains — patient care, dignity and comfort are at the heart of what we do,” said Lauren Welle, MSW, LSW, and medical social worker with the Northwest Colorado Health Home Health & Hospice program. “Staff have donned (personal protective equipment) daily to provide care, not letting their masks or gloves or gowns get in the way of their empathy and skilled care for each person.”
The Northwest Colorado Health Hospice program relies on community support through fundraisers like Hospice Daffodils to provide end-of-life care to anyone in our community who needs it, regardless of ability to pay.
Support hospice by purchasing daffodils this spring. Online orders are available now, and daffodils will be delivered March 8. They will also be available to pick-up or purchase at various locations March 8 and 9. To learn more and purchase daffodils, visit northwestcoloradohealth.org/daffodils.
Jaclyn McDonald is marketing coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at email@example.com or 970-871-7642.
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