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Hospice Volunteers Make a Lifelong Impact on Families

February 25, 2022, Caregiving, Elder Medical Care, Gilchrist, Giving, Grief, Hospice, Hospice Aides, Jewish Hospice, Nurses

Hospice Volunteers Make a Lifelong Impact on Families

Hospice Volunteer, Ed Kaplan

A hospice volunteer can make an impact that lasts a lifetime. Case in point: Ed Kaplan. More than 33 years ago, Ed’s first hospice volunteer assignment was with a noted Jazz pianist and college instructor— Ray—his wife, Diane, and their children, back when the organization was Hospice Services of Howard County.

Ed visited the family for six weeks before Ray passed away. Part of his job was working with the family to help make their time together as meaningful as possible. Ed spent many hours with Ray, Diane and their children and became a trusted friend. He provided caring, compassionate guidance and companionship throughout their hospice experience.

After Ray died, Ed received many letters of thanks—as so many of our dedicated volunteers do—from the family and their friends. Ray’s son wrote a heartfelt letter to tell Ed how much his care had meant to the entire family.

“Dear Ed, to try to even put into words how much you’ve meant to this family seems a ludicrous proposition at best, but some things must be said because of the kind soul that you are. To have made it through this time as well as we have would not have been possible without you. That I can carve in stone. Going through life as we all must with all its trials and tribulations, we see less and less as black and white and see more and more in shades of gray. Your help and understanding have been one of the few bright, shining whites it’s been my privilege to see. I only hope that someday, not too soon I hope, you will call on me to return a little glorious light of my own your way.”

Connecting After Three Decades

It’s now been more than three decades since Ed’s time with this family, so he was quite surprised when Ray’s wife, Diane, reached out to him on Facebook recently to reminisce about the time he spent with them. She filled him in on her life and that of her children, and Ed did the same.

“I was quite touched to be remembered after all those years,” said Ed. “This work we do as volunteers clearly has a long-lasting impact.”

Diane’s message was a heartfelt reminder of how impactful hospice volunteers are and how meaningful their contributions are to families. Their kindness and compassion make an extraordinary difference not just during the hospice experience but for the rest of the family’s lives.

Drawn to Serve

Ed was drawn to hospice volunteer work after a death in his own family. His sister’s twin daughters died shortly after being born prematurely. The hospital social workers were so compassionate, and their support greatly helped the family in the initial bereavement process. Ed wanted to do the same for others facing a loss.

He began serving as a companion to hospice patients and allowing family members to have a break in their caregiving. He supported patients and their families in whatever way they needed. Ed also conducted bereavement groups and helped write a manual on coping after a death, which was given to families for many years.

Contributions to Veterans

Today, Ed’s volunteer work is primarily with veterans in Gilchrist’s care. He was a founding member of the Gilchrist We Honor Veterans program and the Salute to Service program. In 2021, Ed and his team completed 47 salutes. Each Veterans Day, he and fellow veteran volunteers visit residential care facilities to conduct salutes to veterans and celebrate with readings, poems and recognitions. Similar programs are held for Independence Day and Memorial Day.

In addition, he and other We Honor Veterans volunteers visit schools to educate students about veterans. He also facilitates Gilchrist Veteran Cafés at residential care facilities, where small groups of veterans meet to share their service experiences.

Ed Kaplan and all our Gilchrist volunteers, especially those who have given many years of service, such as Ed, deserve every recognition. Gilchrist’s work would not be possible without them.

Names have been changed to protect privacy.

To learn more about Gilchrist’s Volunteer program, visit gilchristcares.org/volunteer. To support our work, visit gilchristcares.org/give.

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