Hospice of Eastern Maine has a way that caring volunteers can help make their clients' last few weeks of life a little easier, simply by being a friend.

Anyone who has ever lost a friend or loved one to a terminal illness will probably tell you how wonderful the Hospice Volunteers were, not only to the patient but also for the caregivers. And the requirements for making such a difference at the end of someone's life are pretty basic. Volunteer Coordinator Wayne Melanson of HOEM says he looks for people who are kind, patient, caring, and want to help. He says they also need to be able to separate themselves from the other person's diagnosis and understand that they can offer comfort but not solutions.

There are no medical requirements to the job so that's not an issue. Instead, Hospice volunteers offer companionship, so a typical visit may involve playing cards with the client, reading to them, or helping them organize family photo albums. At times, volunteers may be called upon to make a meal or drive the client to a doctor's appointment, but usually they're just expected to spend time brightening the day of someone who's life is nearing its end.

Another important aspect to the Hospice Volunteer's job is to offer respite to family caregivers. Too often, these folks put their own lives on hold while they care for their loved one, and so a couple of hours to spend on themselves is amazing. They can do the things the rest of us take for granted, like going to a movie, or having coffee with a friend. Meanwhile, the volunteer is offering a friendly distraction to their charge.

If this sounds like something you'd like to be involved with, contact Wayne Melanson at (207) 275-2110 or email him at wmelanson@emhs.org. The training course starts on October 9th and will be held over six consecutive Mondays from 12:30 to 4:30 at the Eastern Maine Healthcare Mall on Union Street in Bangor. After contacting Wayne, you'll fill out an application, and have an interview with him prior to starting the training.

While volunteers are always needed right in town, there is an additional need for folks who are willing to serve some of the outlying areas, such as Etna, Dixmont, Stetson, Levant, Kenduskeag, Corinth, Hudson, and Orrington.