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How a North Country hospice agency hopes to regrow their volunteer program

A photo of several blue wheels are in the foreground. Behind the wheels are mountains and early fall foliage.
Alli Fam
/
NHPR
North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency sees patients in Coos and Northern Grafton County.

For years, the North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency has worked with community volunteers who spend time with end-of life patients.

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The volunteers offer companionship to patients, according to Alyssa Lennon, the director of hospice and palliative care at the agency. They also give family caregivers a break from their role and the time to run errands.

Prior to the pandemic, Lennon said the agency had a robust volunteer program. But COVID-19 concerns, PPE requirements, and visitation limitation has caused volunteer numbers to dwindle.

“We had less and less volunteers visiting homes,” Lennon said.

Right now, she estimates there are only around five in-home volunteers. It’s a number she’s hoping to see grow to around 20, especially because the hospice program recently expanded into the Plymouth area. The agency is caring for a total of 85 patients.

Now that the pandemic is loosening its grip on New Hampshire, Lennon said the agency is ready to increase its volunteer program again.

In an attempt to expand its volunteer program, the agency will hold a three-part training next month, for prospective volunteers. The training Lennon said, will help interested volunteers to understand what the service could look like, and what they can expect to do. Already, Lennon said over 10 people have signed up.

Lennon said volunteering with the agency can be flexible, anything from knitting with a patient, to shoveling the patient's driveway in the winter.

Volunteers, she said, don’t provide personal or medical care like bathing a patient. That type of care is done by paid staff.

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