Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount has been serving families for 15 years by honoring patients with a caring, attentive team.

Now, this team needs additional participants — volunteers.

Jeanine Velan, volunteer coordinator for Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount, said the process begins with a conversation between the patient and their physician.

Of essence: the type of illness or disease the patient has, the stage of the patient’s illness and how such diseases or illnesses progress. Following a decision to forgo additional medical treatments, they determine how to coordinate the end-of-life journey.

Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount is available to provide a team that includes the physician, family members, nurses, social workers, a chaplain or bereavement counselor, a medical director, hospice aids and volunteers to assist the patient and caregiver.

“The emotional support is addressed by everyone, and we revere and respect how difficult this process can be for the patient and the caregiver,” Velan said. “Volunteers are there to support a patient if they want someone to sit with them, someone to be a good listener or someone to talk with. Some volunteers offer a respite so the caregiver can go for a walk or run an errand.”

Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount conducts background checks of prospective volunteers and screens them to determine how best they can contribute to the process. Some volunteers are well prepared to assist the staff in the office and choose to do so. Some volunteers opt to make weekly phone calls to check on patients. Other volunteers prefer to visit patients and provide assistance in person.

The qualifications for this position require no medical school degree or nursing certification. Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount trains volunteers, then allows them to deliver one of the most genuine gifts one human can give to another.

“A hospice volunteer need only have a heart filled with compassion,” Velan said. “Most often, a hospice volunteer offers their gift of a friendly smile with no expectations whatsoever except to reassure the patient and/or family with this message, ‘It is so good to see you and to be with you today.’”

Compassionate veterans from all branches of the military are encouraged to become hospice volunteers. Their military service can serve as a common experience between volunteer and hospice patient.

The training for volunteers is free and prepares them to serve in homes or health-care facilities. The staff offers volunteers flexible schedules and grief and bereavement education.

This year, Community Homecare and Hospice of Rocky Mount will offer volunteer support groups.

“We respect our volunteers and hold them to the same standard as we hold any member of our hospice team. Hospice volunteers are often referred to as the ‘Heart of Hospice,’” Velan said.