Youth Forward scholarship 2016 – Meeting the Elderly and Terminally Ill

Name: Hira Raza
From: California, California
Grade: 12
School: Centennial High School
Votes: 0

In December 2014, I started volunteering at my local hospice care
facility, Vista Cove Care Center, a home for the elderly and
terminally ill.

The only real problem I faced was doubt of by ability to do this task,
because despite growing up with my young grandparents, the seniors I
would be meeting would not be like them. I was extremely nervous of
lulling conversations and uncomfortable situations with the patients.
The idea of returning to an empty room was also quite terrifying,
because the facility comprises of many terminal patients. However,
once the volunteering started, I focused only on doing my best and
being someone the patients wanted to have around. After almost 40
hours learning about bereavement, facility workings, and visiting a
morgue, I was ready and a year and a half of weekly two-hour visits,
all traces of that doubt and fear have disappeared.

My job is very simple yet very engaging with tasks such as passing out
mail or setting tables for dinner. When delivering mail, the patients
feel acknowledged and seeing their eyes light up from a simple letter
is enough for me know that my work is making an actual difference in
their lives. The painful part comes when I see patients who feel
alone because they are too sick to mingle or even speak. That is when
I know that all they need is the comfort and reassurance I can
provide to keep them from actually being alone. After seeing so many
solitary seniors, I have learned the importance of my work and the
affect I am making on the patients’ lives.

My family members all questioned my decision to volunteer at a hospice
facility, but I stuck through, even with my doubt, because I knew the
situations I would face in the facility would be experienced again in
the future. I plan to become a physician and no matter the field,
loss is a part of the job. Part of the reason I volunteered was to
condition myself to remain in control when a patient passed away.
Despite it being extremely difficult to get over losing someone, even
an acquaintance, I have come to terms with the reality and my
volunteering has shown me I can handle the loss. This is my version
of “forward looking”; knowing and preparing myself for my future.
Aside from preparing for the future, I also tell others of my work at
the facility to educate them on the importance of helping the elderly
and to encourage them to look for opportunities to volunteer as well.

If I return to this facility decades later, most of the patients I know
will not be here. However I know from the smiles I see now that I
made their lives happier, and that is what encourages me to go back
every week. I also hope the sharing of my experiences will have
increased the number of volunteers at centers like Vista Cove.

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