“Helping one person won’t change the world, but for that one person it means the world” ~Unknown
According to Jo Buzhardt, this is one of her favorite quotes, and a mantra to live by. Jo has been an active volunteer here at Hospice & Community Care for nearly four years, primarily as a patient companion and a mentor.
“I help new volunteers who want to be patient companions. I explain how things work at the Hospice House, including things like the rules for HIPPA and the proper use of hand sanitizer. I provide them timesheets, forms, and black pens. Typically I spend two sessions with new patient companion volunteers, one where they follow me and one where I follow them. I also teach them all about the paperwork that needs to be turned in,” said Jo. “I know what it means to be new at something, to do it the first time, so I try and help them get a good grasp of what it means.”
“I love being a mentor,” said Jo. “The more volunteers there are, the better the world.”
Jo explained that she does patient companion work at Westminister and White Oak Manor in addition to the Wayne T. Patrick Hospice House. “I have one patient who loves to do word search puzzles. She is in her 90’s but sharp as a tack. I always bring puzzles, pencils, and a pencil sharpener. Another lady I see regularly, I am not certain that she knows that I am there but I like to think that she enjoys the company. She wanders the halls all day, so I go and find her. Then we walk and I talk. I know that it brings her family great comfort knowing that she has a regular visitor providing her companionship.”
“I also do vigil,” said Jo. “That is closer to end of life, and you usually sit quietly. One woman had gospel music playing, and I sat with her so that the family could get a meal. It is about companionship. Even if they are not conscious, at some level they know they are not alone. Just being present makes a difference.”
When asked what inspired her to be a volunteer, Jo credited her parents. “My grandmother was in a nursing home for nearly 20 years, starting around when I was in high school. My parents would visit once a week, and my brother and I had scheduled days when we were to go and visit her. During their visits, my parents would often “adopt” other patients who were alone. They even got permission to take one lady home with them for the 4th of July so that she could enjoy a family gathering.”
“One time gram was in a room with a lady who had no family at all. My parents learned that her husband and daughter were buried in the same cemetery as members of our family, so my father volunteered me to take flowers to put on their graves.”
“It’s about heart,” explained Jo.
“One time I almost got gram and I thrown out of the home. I always visited and brought her gum. She loved gum. Well, one of the ladies that works there saw me giving her gum and said she couldn’t have it. She told me that my gram chews the gum and spits it on the floor. I told her that they could call me and I would come pick it up because as long as she had breath in her body she would get what she wants,” Jo laughed.
“Being a patient companion is about being there for them. One patient liked sock monkeys and we played with sock monkeys. Another patient I sat with had an Elvis that when you pushed the button, he would swivel his hips. It is about the little things. Doing this work makes me more blessed.”
Jo explained that each person has a story to tell, you just have to take the time to listen. “One lady I visited schooled me on genealogy. She should sit there crocheting, without even looking at her crochet work, and talk with me about genealogy. Another man, he was a highly decorated WWII vet honored by the King of Belgium for destroying Nazi trains coming into Belgium. He was the kindest most amazing spirit. He used to make handmade jewelry. You just have to take the time to meet them.”
“One evening I was sitting with a gentleman. His two children flew in, and they wanted to take their mother to dinner at a German restaurant. When the family came back, the wife walked in with a huge bouquet of wildflowers behind her back. She picked them for me, and they were colorful and lovely. It shows just what an impact we make, how appreciative people are and how they care.”
“Sometimes I think people don’t know we are back here,” said Jo. “I think they should come look at the garden or bring a Vet to the Veteran Garden. Being a patient companion isn’t just about sitting and being quiet. Sometimes it is about being active, maybe helping a patient enjoy Bingo, or taking a walk with them.”
“If I can go and give some comfort and companionship, then I am happy. I would like to think that someone would do that for me or my loved ones,” said Jo. “Anyone can give an hour or 30 minutes. It makes a world of difference in someone’s life.”