Support for caregivers

Debbie Jones
Debbie Jones, Volunteer Services Manager, Gilchrist Hospice Care

In thinking back on my travels to Africa and the remarkable experience I had I remembered how important it was for the family member providing care to sit with us as we asked, “how are you doing today and what can we do for you to help.”  This is why at Gilchrist Hospice Care we have created another volunteer program entitled “Care Giver Support.”  This past May we trained 50 already experienced patient care volunteers to work in supporting the individual(s) who care for the patients we serve. 

This program is designed to offer the family member or friend who has vowed to care for a dependent adult or child in the home an opportunity to focus on their own needs both emotionally and physically.  Often time’s caregivers feel isolated, confused, exhausted, and stressed.  They tend to believe no one out there cares for them or cares about their needs or feelings.  Placing a caregiver volunteer provides an additional line of communication offering support and empathy and continues to complete the circle of care we provide as a hospice organization.  In some cases as we are discovering caregivers just want someone to speak with about everyday happenings, such as, gardening, the latest movie or what is the latest best seller. 

Good listening skills are the key to this program.  Our volunteers are taught to listen with open hearts and minds.  We teach our volunteers to give the caregiver control of the conversation, to give caregivers permission to express their needs and/or feelings, to encourage different ways to cope, and most importantly to listen to the silence.  These skills help build the trust that forms a warm and compassionate relationship and enhances the quality of life for the individual caring for the dying patient.  For many this outreach by our volunteers is a link to the “outside world.”

Since the inception of this program the feedback has only been positive from both families and staff.  There is much value in being heard which is why this program is so important.  Caregiver’s tell how us how safe they feel with the volunteer, how they look forward to the call or visit and how this program gives them an opportunity to put their needs first.

My vision for this outreach is too numerous to describe in this blog, so please call or email me to hear more about this caregiver program or the various other roles volunteers do to support our patients at Gilchrist Hospice Care.  Our next upcoming new volunteer training will be held on October 10, 11, 16, and 18 from 4:30-8:30 PM in our Hunt Valley Location.  For more information on how to volunteer for Gilchrist Hospice Care please call 443 849 8239 or email me at dgeffen@gilchristhospice.org.


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