Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

July 27, 2012

Volunteers ease end-of-life transition

TAHLEQUAH — Gregg Serrano is no stranger to death. After being a helpmate through the final phases of life to a number of people, Gregg decided to take the next step and become a hospice volunteer.

“I feel like God has nudged me in this direction,” said Serrano.

He began volunteering for Hope Hospice a little over a year ago, and feels helping people retain dignity and respect at the end of life is key.

“[To do this kind of work] you have to be compassionate and be a good listener,” said Serrano. “There are so many people involved in a hospice patient’s life – doctors, nurses, family members – that it’s important to have someone on your side who can speak up and voice opinions about what the patient wants.”

Serrano visits his current patient once a week or whenever he has a free minute to share a story, a laugh, or even a cigar.

“Patients don’t require much from us, as far as time is concerned,” said Serrano. “I go out of the fullness of my heart. For instance, one of my patients, a lady, smokes. She wanted to sit on her porch, talk about her kids and smoke a cigar, so that’s what we did. I smoked cigars with her. We also talked about vintage TV shows like ‘Gunsmoke,’ and things like that. When we visited, she just became vibrant. I truly believe what we do, as volunteers, makes things easier for the patients.”

Patients become involved with hospice at varying stages at the end of life. Volunteers are as varied as the patients, and Serrano readily admits he’s better working with patients who are very close to dying.

“I had one gentleman who had about two weeks to live,” said Serrano. “At one point, I visited him four times in one day, as he had no family here locally. But he felt he was really OK with the situation because of the time and effort we devoted to checking in on him.”

Hope Hospice Volunteer Coordinator Mary Pat Rosenthal believes matching volunteers to patients is of primary importance, as the fit has to be “just right.”

“Patients relate to volunteers on a totally different level,” said Rosenthal. “They have so many clinical people coming in and out of their lives who check vitals and run other tests.

Serrano agreed, saying volunteers focus only on individual’s mental well-being.

“Volunteers have no [medical] agenda,” he said. “Our only job is to bring comfort and peace, and I let them take the lead.”

Serrano believes many people may want to volunteer for hospice organizations, but are afraid to make the call.

“Mary Pat is amazing at matching people,” said Serrano. “She finds the strengths in the volunteers and compares those to individual patient’s needs. Just tell Mary Pat, and she will make the fit.”

Volunteers, by definition, are unpaid, but Rosenthal makes sure her staff feel appreciated.

“We get Payday candy bars in the mail with our continuing education packets,” said Serrano. “I have to say, I love the pay here.”

Lee James has only been with Hope Hospice for a couple of months. The loss of her parents and retirement from retail were the catalysts for her decision to join the team.

“I worked retail for 45 years, when I found myself out of a job” said James. “My parents, who lived in Tennessee, both passed away, and had hospice. After seeing how my parents were cared for, and how much comfort the hospice volunteers provided me, since I couldn’t be there with my folks – well, I just wanted to give that back. I like to believe my parents are watching my volunteer work now, and are proud of me.”

James said after working with people most of her life, she’s developed a sense of humor, which is important when dealing with patients.

“I’m a silly person, but very serious about what I do,” said James. “The client I’m working with right now gets overwhelmed. Some days, it’s tears, and some days, it’s giggles. No matter what – tears or giggles – it’s always happy.”

James uses both humor and crafts to connect with patients.

“Right now, my patient loves to work with flowers,” said James. “So I bring him lots of artificial flowers, and we create bouquets and other things. He shares with me the flowers he loves. When his wife was alive, he sent her a bouquet every single month. I just can’t explain the reward.”

James said that after retiring, she couldn’t sit at home and watch television.

“I had been so busy all my life, I felt like I had gone from hero to zero in no time flat,” she said. “But now, I’m back. I would recommend hospice volunteering to anyone who has a place in their heart that needs filling.”

Rosenthal said Hope Hospice accepts volunteers of all ages.

“We take retirees, people who are employed full-time, college students; we even have a junior volunteer program for people ages 5-18,” said Rosenthal. “As you can imagine, the patient situation is constantly in flux. Volunteers have individual passions, and we’re so fortunate here in Tahlequah to have so many different entities for volunteers. That said, we are always looking for additional volunteers.”

Requirements to become a volunteer include a background check and screening, drug test and four hours of training, as well as continuing education as required by Medicare and Medicaid.

“Our service area is broad, and we try not to have volunteers travel beyond their hometown,” said Rosenthal. “Volunteers are just that, and we try to make it conducive to their lifestyle.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • ths-jazz-2.jpg THS jazz band gets up early to hone performance skills

    It means getting up an hour earlier, and it doesn’t count as a class, but the jazz band at Tahlequah High School enjoys the dedication of a group of enthusiastic students.
    The THS Jazz Band practices every day at 7 a.m., an hour before the start of classes. It numbers 17, and is led by Director Orien Landis.
    “They have to do this before school and they get no class credit, but we have a full band,” Landis said. “They are really excited about this.”

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Easter-basket-kid.jpg Easter traditions date back centuries

    Some Christians may lament a partial shift of focus, but a Christian holy day - perhaps the most holy of all – is this Sunday, and it will be marked with celebrations all around the world.
    The Christian holiday of Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For centuries, the observant have fasted, reflected or done penance in the weeks leading to the holiday. But today, many also associate the holiday with the Easter bunny, candy, and kites. In 2013, Americans spent $2.1 billion on Easter candy.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Some oppose minimum wage hike; others decry strong-arming by state

    President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate recently announced a push to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour, to $10.10. On the heels of the announcement, an initiative petition was introduced in Oklahoma City to raise the minimum wage to the suggested $10.10. If it gained 80,000 signatures, it would be put to a vote of the people.
    This legislative session, a bill passed prohibiting municipalities from setting a minimum was or vacation and sick-day requirements. Gov. Mary Fallin signed the bill into law earlier this week.

    April 18, 2014

  • Phone scam takes $500 from couple

    Authorities are warning Cherokee County residents to watch for a costly phone scam that recently targeted a local couple and ended in their loss of $500.
    According to sheriff’s deputies, a couple contacted authorities after losing $500 to the scam. The couple received a phone call from a man who identified himself only as “Mr. Green.” He told the couple they had won $1.5 million through Publisher’s Clearing House, but to collect the money, the couple would have to purchase a $500 money card to cover various fees.

    April 18, 2014

  • Missing local teen found dead

    The body of a missing 17-year-old boy was found in southern Cherokee County on Thursday, sheriff’s investigators said.
    Brikk Pritchett was reported missing earlier this month after disappearing on March 30, a day before his 17th birthday.

    April 18, 2014

  • ts honor flight 1.tif Flight of honor

    World War II veteran Charles Harra flew missions for the Army Air Corps, and if you ask him which flight was his most memorable, he’ll say it was his 35th mission.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Man charged after leading authorities on wild chase

    Prosecutors have formally charged a man who allegedly led authorities on a wild high-speed pursuit across Cherokee County in late March.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sex offender bonds out after failing to register

    A Cherokee County man is out on bond after being arrested last week for failing to register as a sex offender.

    April 17, 2014

  • jn radiator shop.jpg ‘Greenbelt’ progressing

    Crews this week began to demolish an abandoned radiator shop at the corner of South Street and Guinn Avenue.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts slut walk.tif SlutWalk shines spotlight on crime

    “Two, four, six, eight, stop the violence, stop the rape; slut, slut, ho, ho, yes means yes and no means no!”
    This was the battle cry across the campus of Northeastern State University, as the student branch of the American Association of University Women held its third annual SlutWalk Wednesday.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What to you think of a state Legislature proposal to forbid cities from raising the minimum wage? Choose the closest to your opinion.

The federal government should set the minimum wage across the board.
States should be allowed to raise their minimum wages, but not cities.
Both states and cities should be allowed to raise their minimum wages.
Cities should be allowed to raise their mimum wages, but not states.
There should be no minimum wage at all.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
Stocks