My Client Friend Died Today
A Volunteer's Badge
How it all began...
Not unlike other clients I have been assigned by the Senior Corps' Senior Companion Office, John was given a limited life expectancy, and his wife Carol was his 24/7 caregiver. My assignment was to give John and Carol eight hours each week divided into four hours on Tuesdays and a second four hours on Thursdays.
My assignment sheet revealed that John was dealing with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, diabetes, and heart problems. I learned later that he had a Do Not Resuscitate order, a copy of which I carried with me for the months when I was with him.
Carol and John had been interviewed by the Senior Companion Program in June of 2017 and were accepted into the program then. I was assigned as John's companion shortly thereafter.
John passed away the day after Christmas 2019. I last spent time with him on Tuesday, Christmas Eve. On the prior Thursday visit I had brought along a meal of vegetable beef stew and a tossed salad from the nearby senior center. He was not able to feed himself but he ate the full meal. Part way through the meal he cried silently for perhaps three or four minutes. I could only guess at the reason, but my guess was that he realized he would be passing away soon.
When I first started visiting John, we typically went to that senior center and played Bingo on Tuesdays, staying to eat lunch together there. Several times he also attempted to play some pool with two or three of us, but that was not easy for him. Gradually I had to help him more and more at Bingo, and cutting up his foods at lunch.
On my Thursday visits we read or watched television, and I stopped by the senior center to pick up our three dollar lunches. Mine were reimbursed by the Senior Program, as were my mileage expenses, and I was given a stipend of $2.65 per hour.
Carol used my companionship with John to do their shopping, obtain her own medical and dental care, participate in her own church services, and even go to the hair dresser or get a pedicure. My time with John also gave her time to visit her friends. On the rare occasions when I was out of town or had in-service training, I tried to compensate with times when I was not serving my four other clients.
John also had in home hospice care providers, Community Nursing physical therapists, and a nursing student who lived in the neighborhood and came voluntarily to help Carol clean and change John as he declined in his ability to move around and assist Carol in his own care.
John had been an internationally respected engineer, and he and Carol had traveled widely. They had on occasion even lived overseas for brief periods of time when he was involved in various projects. Their living room was decorated with some of their souvenirs from those excursions.
John and Carol had raised a large family and one of their grown sons was a professional who worked out of their home and was available to assist Carol and his father when the son was at home.
Carol was alone when John passed away, but his rapid decline on Christmas Eve had given her a medical alert that he was "transitioning." He was only bed ridden those last few days.
While John was able to read aloud from his scriptures haltingly toward the end, the thing Carol missed the most over the period of his gradual decline were the good conversations they had been accustomed to having. Toward the end John was physically present, but his normal participation in discussions had already ended. Even then, his decline was far more gradual than those experienced by others with his conditions.
On my last visit today Carol informed me that John had passed away earlier in the day. A niece and her husband, and a hospice nurse were there. I said my own goodbyes to John, and Carol went into the bedroom alone to say her personal goodbye to John before the morticians arrived, a man and woman who would arrange to take John's body to the mortuary.
John had transitioned.
I called my Senior Companion administrator and informed them of John's passing, and of my availability to assist another 24/7 caregiver.
Note: The names John and Carol are names the author has arbitrarily given to identify the very real husband and wife in this article. Any resemblance to another John and Carol is purely coincidental. If you can volunteer a minimum of 20 hours per week, you are encouraged to contact the author for details on joining the Senior Corps. Use the Contact Author link above. Comments here are also welcome.
Volunteer Service As A Senior Companion
- Becoming a Senior Companion on a Stipend
If your household income is limited (you didn't retire with a large nest egg), consider volunteering 20 or more hours per week on a tax-free stipend.
© 2019 Demas W Jasper