The core of hospice work is providing end-of-life care to patients and their families. Courtney Williams, manager of volunteer and professional services at Compass Regional Hospice, said vigil volunteers help to provide a crucial service to patients facing the last few days of life, as well as the families and caregivers who are with them in those last days and moments.
Compass Regional Hospice will offer a vigil volunteer training session at 10 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at the home of its Grief Support Services, The Hope and Healing Center, 255 Comet Drive, Centreville.
The course will be facilitated by Support Services Supervisor and social worker Sharon Loving.
“The intention of our vigil program is to provide a soothing, serene energy and a space for the dying to transition peacefully,” Williams said. “Just letting our patients and their families know they are safe, they are surrounded by love, and they are never alone is often the greatest gift we can give you.”
A gift offered wherever a patient calls home or in Compass Regional Hospice’s residential care facilities, vigil volunteers can be there to reiterate or remind families of what medical personnel have communicated, suggest comfort care for the patient, sit with the patient while a caregiver has a chance to rest, and reassure caregivers they are doing a good job.
A vigil volunteer is similar to a birth doula, who helps families welcome new life into the world, except the role’s responsibility is to provide comfort and peace while a patient transitions and prepares to leave the world.
Vigil volunteers create a calm and peaceful space through music, aromatherapy, soft lighting, closing doors to reduce noise, turning off televisions and electronic devices, and possibly sitting bedside while silently praying or meditating.
“Some volunteers feel a pull toward this type of work. It’s sometimes called different things, but it’s all about being a steward to help a person transition peacefully,” Williams said. “The common thread in each of our vigil volunteers is that they tend to have a very tranquil, soothing energy and nature about them that emanates and creates a sense of peace.”
Bente Cooney of Grasonville began volunteering with Compass Regional Hospice in 2014. Her goal is to normalize the dying process through volunteering with Compass as a vigil volunteer.
“I’m comfortable with the end-of-life process. Death is a natural part of life and we all deserve the best possible departure we can have,” Cooney said. “Sitting vigil is more about being than doing most of the time. The vigil volunteer’s job is to be a stable, calm presence and to help create a sacred space while staying alert to any changes. We stay in tune with what the patient needs as they transition.”
She said the hospice movement of the early 1980s was a welcome addition to the health care landscape.
“Hospice is a very healthy and beautiful addition to the care we offer in this country,” Cooney said.
Williams said vigil volunteers must be comfortable having frank conversations about end-of-life issues, need to be comfortable with the dying process and must be able remain calm in the face of change.
“Providing a vigil and being with someone as they are passing is the core of hospice work. Mildred Barnette, former Hospice of Queen Anne’s executive director and one of its founders, would say that we’ve had vigil volunteers since 1985, and we’ve called them different things as the program has evolved, but ultimately, vigil volunteers have always been at the core of Compass Regional Hospice’s offerings as a hospice provider,” Williams said.
For more information about becoming a vigil volunteer, contact Williams at 443-262-4112 or email@example.com.
Compass Regional Hospice – Care on your terms
Compass Regional Hospice is a fully licensed, independent, community-based nonprofit organization certified by Medicare and the state of Maryland and accredited by the Joint Commission. Since 1985, Compass Regional Hospice has been dedicated to supporting people of all ages through the challenge of living with a life-limiting illness and learning to live following the death of a loved one. Today, the organization is a regional provider of hospice care and grief support in Queen Anne’s, Kent and Caroline counties. “Care on your terms” is the promise that guides staff and volunteers as they care for patients in private residences, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the residential hospice centers in Centreville and Chestertown. Grief support services are offered to children, adults and families of patients who died under hospice care, as well as members of the community who are grieving the loss of a loved one, through The Hope and Healing Center. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice, visit compassregionalhospice.org.