In a cozy dining room in Fargo, North Dakota, Linda Bates chats, listens and smiles with a Sanford hospice patient.
“I guess I’m just a people person,” she said.
Sanford hospice volunteers
Bates is a patient visitor volunteer for Sanford Health hospice. When requested, she goes to a hospice patient’s home or bedside, and just visits.
It’s a simple thing. Spending quality time with someone near the end of their life.
“Our volunteers bring many skills to our organization, but the biggest one that they bring is their heart, and the compassion that they give to our patients at end-of-life can be very rewarding,” said Anne Vig, supervisor of social services at Sanford Fargo Hospice.
Sanford hospice has many types of volunteer opportunities, including letter writers, photographers, musicians and more. All tailored to the requests of each patient.
“We always visit with the patient and ask them what their goals are and what they would like for their end-of-life, and sometimes that does include a volunteer,” said Vig. “Maybe we have them come and play cards. Sometimes it’s, ‘I’d really like somebody to come in and do my hair.’ So those are the kinds of things that we’re looking for (from volunteers).”
‘A day brightener’
Bates has doubled as both a patient visitor and a respite volunteer, or someone who gives caregivers a chance to leave the house and run errands. Recently she provided respite for Joe Noel, while visiting with his wife Yvonne.
“It was kind of a day brightener for my wife — for us — to have someone there for that hour. And I think Linda’s visits tended to go over an hour because we visited so well,” said Joe Noel. “She was an uplifting spirit.”
Yvonne Noel passed away in February. Even though they only knew each other for a few short months, Linda bonded with Yvonne at the end of her life, and she still has a connection with Joe.
“He and his wife had such a beautiful relationship. I was like a friend to them. I mean, I became a friend. And I value that friendship.”
Getting as much as she gives
Bates knows the patients she visits are nearing the end of their lives. But that doesn’t stop her from providing companionship and making new friends.
“Yes, (initially) the idea of losing a friend sounded a little down to me. But I have learned life from them,” said Bates. “They seemed to have a reason to wake up every day, and I really valued that.”
She says she loves being a volunteer, and would recommend it to anyone who wants to give back.
“It gives you a good feeling. Plus I think it’s something we should do. I think we’re built to connect with people.”
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