Therapy dogs, volunteers bring respite to hospice patients, next training date set

Shelly Haberman
Therapy dogs, volunteers bring respite to hospice patients

Agnesian HealthCare’s Hospice Hope is proud to offer this service to the patients and families it serves, including care offered by Melodie Pulvermacher, of Princeton, and her therapy dog, Tia. And, the need is there for more volunteers like Melodie.

“The best part of being a pet therapy volunteer for hospice is seeing people’s face when Tia arrives,” Melodie explains. “The smiles and laughter Tia brings to the patients and families is priceless. I know the time spent allows them to take their mind off any worries and brings them comfort during their final days.”

Melodie started with Hospice Hope nearly two years ago. “My mother was a hospice patient so I always had the desire to volunteer for hospice,” she says. “Tia was certified to become a therapy dog in July 2015. Late summer, I saw an article in the newspaper about becoming a hospice volunteer, and there was a need for pet therapy. I made the phone call and went through training. Hospice was one of the first assignments Tia had as a therapy dog.”

In her interactions with hospice patients, Melodie uses a special approach.

“I talk to patients about their own experiences with dogs, which gives them an opportunity to share their own stories. Tia is small, so she can be petted easily. The visits are mostly about the connection and interaction between the therapy dog and the patient. I try not to interrupt those moments. The interaction with the pet is very calming to patients and it helps bring back a lot of wonderful memories.”

Her work at Agnesian HealthCare’s Hospice Hope has been so meaningful that Melodie would not hesitate to recommend it to others.

“It is one of the most rewarding volunteer positions a person can take,” she says. “Some patients are very comforted by Tia’s presence. It may be the only visit some patients respond to. The love for pets is a connection people have until the very end.”

Hospice Hope offices in Fond du Lac and Green Lake office are currently looking for more volunteers to assist patients and their families. Volunteers are placed in their own geographic areas. Hospice Hope is currently in need of volunteers to help with companionship, pet therapy, veteran and non-direct patient care.

Agnesian HealthCare Hospice Hope provides an extensive training program designed to equip volunteers for the varied types of service.

The next training session is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, March 6 at Ripon Medical Center, 845 Parkside Street in Ripon. Application deadline is Friday, February 24. Application and interview must be completed prior to the class.

For more information, call Betty Walleser, Hospice Hope Green Lake volunteer coordinator, at (920) 294-6220 (walleserb@agnesian.com).

Hospice offers a supportive, palliative (comfort versus cure) and compassionate care program to patients who have a life-threatening illness, and do not want, or cannot proceed with, aggressive curative treatment.  Hospice Hope care offers a team of caring people trained to meet the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of patients who have a limited life expectancy, as well as the needs of their families and caregivers. There are as many volunteer opportunities as there are individual preferences for service!

If you have the desire to help others, the willingness to share your time and talents, want to grow personally, and give something back to your community, consider becoming an Agnesian HealthCare Hospice Hope volunteer.

For information on hospice volunteer needs in Fond du Lac, as well as other future training dates, contact Jennifer Stephens, Hospice Hope Fond du Lac volunteer coordinator, at (920) 924-4662 (stephensj@agnesian.com).

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