Hospice of Santa Barbara and Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care are asking for volunteers for their No One Dies Alone (NODA) program, which helps ensure that those who are dying without family or friends nearby have someone at their side during their final hours. The agencies said they’re looking for volunteers with “personal and spiritual maturity” and “a capacity for reflection on one’s lived experience.”
“There are situations where someone is the last surviving member in their family or lives across the country from friends and relatives,” said David Selberg, CEO of Hospice of Santa Barbara. “We want to make sure that we are there with them.”
Sally Turvey, Hospice of S.B.’s volunteer services coordinator, said volunteers sign up for two-hour shifts between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., typically during a patient’s last 24-72 hours of life. They play soft music, hold the patient’s hand, sit in silence, or provide damp towels and other simple comforts. Support is often more “about being rather than doing,” Turvey said, meaning that a volunteer’s mere presence can offer the most solace.
Lyn Essig has volunteered with NODA for four years. She said the work has been “very rewarding” and cites the experience of her parents’ deaths as her reason for joining the program. “I was with both of them when they passed away, and I just think it’s an amazing part of life,” she said. For Essig, each shift is unique, “leaves an impression,” and encourages her to keep volunteering. “When you’re sitting with them,” she said, “you learn a lot of about who they were and what they did … and where they’re headed.”
NODA services take place at Sarah House, The Californian, Serenity House, Alexander Gardens & Villa Alamar, Heritage House, Buena Vista Care Center, Samarkand, and Alto Lucero. All volunteers go through a rigorous training process. For more information, visit hospiceofsantabarbara.org or call Hospice of Santa Barbara’s offices at (805) 563-8820.