Mary Larsen, Moretown, retired from being a hospice nurse at Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice (CVHHH) in June 2020, but that didn’t mean she stopped her work with Vermonters at the end of their lives and their families. She became a hospice volunteer with CVHHH.
“When I was a nurse, I had tasks and charting to do,” she said. She started working with CVHHH as a part-time volunteer while still working in hospice care in Atlanta, Georgia. Once she got her Vermont license, she worked as a hospice nurse with CVHHH for 15 years and is now back to volunteering for the organization.
“All that’s required as a hospice volunteer is to be open, helpful and non-judgmental. I love the opportunity to support the family in whatever way they need. It’s simply ‘How can I help make this experience better for all of you?’”
That might mean sitting with the patient while family members do errands, do laundry, empty the dishwasher, and other tasks that allow family members to spend as much time as possible with their loved ones. “Caregiving is all-consuming,” she said. “It’s 24-hours-a-day for the family.” She said small tasks like picking up something they need at the store, “Is one less thing they have to do.”
Larsen said her role varies, depending on the family and their needs. Sometimes, hospice volunteers have to think outside the box. Larsen recalled an experience she had when working as a hospice nurse for CVHHH where the patient loved baby animals. One of the aides raised lambs, so she brought a baby lamb in a diaper to visit the patient in her home. “Her face just lit up, she was so excited,” Larsen said. “It was just wonderful.”
She noted an upcoming program CVHHH is launching soon in which restaurants throughout Washington County – including in The Valley -- will be able to sign up to donate meals to hospice patients and their families. Families will be given their choice of restaurants and select what they want, and CVHHH volunteers will bring the donated meals directly to them. She said meal planning and cooking can be overwhelming for families with a loved one in hospice care.
“Whatever will enrich their lives and make their lives easier, that’s what we’re there for.”