Celebrating the gifts of hospice volunteers | Editorial

Hospice of the Northwest

By Hospice of the Northwest and Journal staff

For more than 30 years, San Juan County residents in the last stages of their lives have turned to Hospice of the Northwest.

The organization is honoring its own during National Volunteer Week, April 18-24.

National Volunteer Week provides the opportunity to recognize the millions of Americans who provide volunteer service in communities across the country. At Hospice of the Northwest, more than 50 trained volunteers give selflessly to help people live as fully as possible, even when facing a serious or life-limiting illness.

Even now, during the pandemic, they are making a difference by safely visiting patients in their homes, caring for our patient’s pets, checking in with patients, and their circles of support through weekly phone calls encouraging grieving loved ones after a patient dies. They even support Hospice of the Northwest staff in its outreach, administrative, and clinical team departments.

“Given that hospice volunteers accompany people along the journey of a serious or life-threatening illness, they serve an essential part in enabling Hospice of the Northwest to offer the best care possible. By sharing their time, energy, and expertise, our volunteers bring compassion and dignity to the lives of those in need, and we celebrate them not only during National Volunteer Week but every day,” HNW Executive Director Bob Laws said.

HNW has been serving Skagit, Island, San Juan and Snohomish counties since 1989, providing access to nursing, medical, social and spiritual professionals, who “demonstrate compassion and dignity in the care they provide to patients facing serious illness and the loved ones who care for them,” according to the website. It has an administrative building in Mt. Vernon and all of its services are provided in patients’ homes or in a care facility. HNW also offers hospice services to the homeless.

Although San Juan and Lopez both have their own volunteer organizations — Hospice of San Juan and Lopez Hospice and Home Support — only HNW can provide around-the-clock access to nursing support and other resources for end-of-life care. Patient care is funded by Medicare hospice benefits, Medicaid, private insurance or HNW’s charity care. The Hospice Northwest Foundation, a 501(c)3, fills the gap in insurance funding.

It is federally mandated under Medicare that 5 percent of all patient care hours be provided by trained volunteers, reflecting the vital role that volunteers play in the provision of care. But even if the integration of volunteers was not required, we would still consider them critical members of our team. Our community is a better, more compassionate place because of their service.

For those interested in learning more about hospice or volunteer opportunities, visit www.hospicenw.org or call 360-814-5550.