I have now been a hospice volunteer for going on ten years, but I will never forget my first assignment. When I met her, Ann Marie was in her seventies. Born in the Caribbean islands and orphaned in her early teens, she was sent to live in an orphanage in this area. At eighteen, Ann Marie, on her own, became a live-in domestic, employed successively by four or five different families until she retired. She had never married, nor had the opportunity to develop close, lasting friendships.Now in hospice care in a nursing home, her only outside contact was a court appointed custodian, who had her power of attorney, but who seldom visited her.
In my volunteer training, I learned the value of personal touch as a good way to establish a bond with a patient. During my first visit with Ann Marie, after introducing myself, I reached out and took hold of her hand. As we talked, I noticed that she began to squeeze my hand repeatedly. We went on to establish a marvelous relationship. Over time, she happily shared with me memories of trips she had taken, documented carefully in numerous scrapbooks. We spent hours together going through those scrapbooks. After several months, as Ann Marie’s condition improved, she was discharged from hospice, so that I no longer could visit her. A month or so later, however, she was readmitted to hospice, so I was able to visit her again. One day I got a call from the hospice nurse, who knew of the close relationship Ann Marie and I had established, telling me that Ann Marie was dying. I quickly went to the nursing home to be with her, holding her hands in my hands as she slipped away.
Without family or friends to support her, Ann Marie might have died alone. Through the loving care of her hospice team, she was embraced by people dedicated to gentle her journey to its end. I was privileged to be part of Ann Marie’s hospice experience. I am still a hospice volunteer today.
Montgomery Hospice was deeply saddened by the death of George Gleason in April 2013. He will be greatly missed.