“I really wish I could be more involved than I am,” says Cleveland volunteer Tom Mathews. Tom began volunteering with Crossroads Hospice after retiring. “I don’t have to work anymore, so I can choose what I want to do,” he says fondly.
But volunteering at a hospice wasn’t his first choice. “Knowing it was terminal patients … it just sounded rough,” he admits. “But it isn’t like you’re just sitting there watching someone die. It’s very rewarding, and even if you’re having a bad day, it’s better after visiting your patients.” Tom loves all his patients, but one of his favorites is a woman who always eats fried chicken. “She’s turning 100 on April 1st and she’s just the coolest little lady!” he gushes.
At first he worried that a sick woman shouldn’t be having fried foods and diet soda, but he soon learned that she could handle it. “She’s only 78 pounds and doesn’t even have teeth, but the first time I met her, she just tore those chicken nuggets up!” Now when he brings them, she is thrilled and tells him that when she gets to heaven, she’s going to tell God to keep an eye on him. “That’s a good feeling. She loves that fried chicken and deserves to have it,” he says.
“Tom never says no to a new client,” says Volunteer Manager Cindy Billideau. “He attends their birthdays and Ultimate Gifts. He even attends Interdisciplinary Group Team Meetings to discuss his patients.”
The Interdisciplinary Group Team Meetings bring together all the members of a hospice team to discuss their patients every two weeks. The Medical Director, nurses, aides, chaplain, social worker and volunteer manager go through each case file, ensuring nothing is missed in the patient’s care. Volunteers don’t always attend, but Tom likes adding insights from his visits firsthand.
Over two years of volunteering, Tom has learned that the work isn’t depressing at all. “You’re there to let them enjoy the days they’ve got. I put myself in their position. In some cases, they might be the last of their family and you get to keep them company and learn their story.”
After 27 years working for a steel company, his work as a Crossroads Hospice volunteer has brought meaning to Tom’s retirement. “It’s great,” he says. “And it keeps getting better.”
Our Happiness Hour events are coming up in April, but you don’t need to wait until then to join our team of Ultimate Givers. Complete the contact form on Facebook and a Volunteer Manager will be in touch with opportunities in your area.
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