For some time I’ve been interested in hospice models where volunteers accompany terminally ill people and their caregivers through the course of their journey — at home.
I know of several role models. New York’s doula project, for instance, provides companionship and comfort for people whose life expectancy is 18 months or less, especially those who have limited support systems of their own. HomeHospice in NSW/Australia has been sending volunteers for over 28 years to support the dying. See also Hospice Toronto, especially their volunteer profile. The Zen Hospice in Melbourne is an interesting model based on the intention to “drive away the sorrows of the world,” as described by the 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva. All of these projects serve clients of any age, gender, religious, and cultural background.
At some time during yesterday’s meditation retreat it became clear to me that a similar service might be right for the city in which I live and for myself in line with the vow to be of service. Residential hospices which rely on grants and donations are experiencing serious funding problems — alternative ways to support people wishing to die at home are needed. (Click the tab at the top of the page for relevant research.)
Starting small and soon, my wish is to offer practical, emotional, and spiritual support that is personalized, dependable, and run alongside with palliative care and medical services. I see us offering regular visits and companionship, plus such complementary modalities as meditation, prayer, art activities, yoga, foot and hand massage, Reiki, Healing Touch, pet visits, and MBSR. Assistance with end-of-life ceremonies, inter-faith funerals, and non-traditional memorial services would be a natural extension of such offerings.
Well, there it is: a vision grounded in the desire to make a difference. If you reside in or near Victoria, might you consider volunteering in such a program?