Hospice volunteers touch lives by helping provide emotional support to terminally ill patients and their families.
A coordinator is needed to screen, train and connect those volunteers to patients and families, and that person at Schneck Medical Center Hospice is Joyce Corya of Seymour.
A registered nurse for 44 years, including 12 as an oncology nurse, Corya is no stranger to hospice care, especially because her mother and brother both used it.
After Corya’s husband, Eric DiBlasi Sr., died two years ago, she found herself at a GriefShare meeting hosted by Schneck Hospice Chaplain Stephen Barrett.
“I found out about the hospice coordinator position through Steve,” she said. “I had gone to his GriefShare classes the summer of 2019, and he thought I might be interested in facilitating the program someday.”
After Corya left her job in November 2020 to start enjoying some free time, she decided to call Barrett to ask about helping with the classes.
“I got in touch with Steve early this year to ask about helping with GriefShare, but the hospital hadn’t started them back up yet,” she said. “Later, he told me about the volunteer hospice coordinator position coming open, so June 4 was my first day.”
The coordinator position is not a paid position, but Corya is fine with that.
“I am big on volunteerism and ministry outreach, and ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ book from 20 years ago made an impression on me,” Corya said. “If you’ve got a pulse, you’ve still got a purpose.”
Corya said being a hospice volunteer means giving emotional support to patients, maybe reading to them, playing cards, watching TV with them or just listening.
“Volunteers are also there to give the family members a break in case they need to go to the store or have some time to themselves,” she said.
Quarterly meetings are held for the volunteers to provide continued training and exchange information with other volunteers. Also, those who volunteer determine their availability and how much time they’re willing to devote.
Denise Swegles, director of home services for Schneck, said there are currently around a dozen hospice volunteers.
“We want to have plenty of volunteers to meet whatever needs our patients have,” she said. “Some of our volunteers have been with us for a while.”
At the last quarterly meeting July 26, Mary Jan Koop of Seymour was recognized as a 25-year volunteer.
“She has seen the program wax and wane and grow, and she has been awesome,” Swegles said.
In April, Les Linz was recognized for five years of volunteering, Bridget Molinari and Candace Smith 10 years, Richard Prather 15 years and Steve Dahlquist 20 years.
A husband and wife team, Carlyle and Becky Floyd of North Vernon, also are hospice volunteers.
Becky is a retired RN from Schneck and worked there for 40 years, holding a variety of positions. She also served two years as hospice volunteer coordinator before passing the torch to Corya.
“What got me into hospice volunteering was the fact that we really got to know some of the residents at Covered Bridge (Health Campus in Seymour),” she said. “We watched so many of them come and go and thoroughly enjoyed talking to them.”
That’s what hospice is about, having conversations with those people, so she and her husband both decided to become hospice volunteers, Becky said.
“Hospice is not unique to the older population, but I am drawn to the older population,” Carlyle said. “With my mom at Covered Bridge and her mom, we know there are a lot of people within those facilities that don’t have anyone to come visit them or spend time with them.”
He said when things open up, even if you’re not a hospice volunteer, take some time and go there if you know anyone in a nursing home or even if you don’t know anyone.
“A 2-minute conversation could change a person’s life,” Carlyle said. “Both of us enjoy being volunteers at any level.”
Linz, who lives in Seymour, became a hospice chaplain volunteer a little more than five years ago and assists those who attend the GriefShare program.
“I was especially interested because I had lost my first wife to breast cancer when she was 37 and I was left with a 9-year-old girl to raise,” Linz said. “This program in particular does a fabulous job assisting relatives and former friends that have been left behind, hurting to one degree or another.”
Linz said once he went through the 13-session GriefShare program himself, he saw its value.
“Hospice volunteers make it easier on those that are in the program as clients as well as their care-giving friends and family members to reduce the stress they’re under,” he said.
Volunteers do anything from lending an ear to someone who needs it to helping caregivers with respite so they can get a well-deserved breather.
“The hospice volunteer often gets more out of their service than the ones being served because the client has a wealth of experience they can share that winds up growing the one offering their volunteerism,” Linz said. “That’s why you would want to become a volunteer if you’re not one already.”
Schneck Hospice is always looking for volunteers to help in a variety of roles.
“We have volunteers for clerical support and volunteers who might want to be involved in certain projects,” Swegles said. “Some come to the meetings and help us get ready for our Celebration of Life event we have annually.”
Each year, they try to get back in touch with the families who had someone die the year prior.
“We learn they really form attachments to our staff who cared for them and they like to see them again,” Swegles said. “That one-year anniversary seems to be a really hard one to get through.”
She said they also need people willing to go out and promote hospice volunteering and help recruit, and that might be all they do and every little bit helps.
“Some of our volunteers are ministers, and they help conduct the GriefShare programs,” Swegles said. “People can go through the program as many times as they need to.”
She said people don’t have to have a loved one who died here locally to attend the classes. Anyone is welcome.
“It really does take a village, and the more people we can help, the more loving and stable community we’ll have,” Swegles said.