If you have visited Bethel Health Care in the past 6 years, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen Regional Hospice volunteer and Newtown resident Zack Taylor, who after 8 years of volunteering has decided to “retire” from his role as Family Support Volunteer.
When his wife saw a newspaper advertisement seeking volunteers for Regional Hospice’s patient program, she thought it would be right up his alley. Eight years later, Zack chuckles, he admits she was right. As a retired independent sales representative, he was looking for something worthwhile to do, something his golf game just never did, he quips, and so he leaped at the chance to take the training.
Over the past eight years, Zack has reliably volunteered almost every single Monday, earning him the prestigious title of “Volunteer of the Year” in 2014. The Regional Hospice team relied on him to visit his patients and provide companionship, support and advocacy. He enjoyed the past six years in particular, when he honed in on Bethel Health Care as his venue of choice to care for Regional Hospice patients. Prior to that, he was visiting patients in their homes in the community – at one point visiting an astonishing 13 patients every week – soon realizing that it was simply too much for one person to do. The staff at Bethel Health Care lucked out, acknowledging what an important member of the Regional Hospice team he was and embracing him as one of their own. The receptionist, for example, would greet him every Monday morning with an update on all of his patients, so he knew how everyone was doing.
Throughout the years, he has saved and cherished letters that he received from bereaved family members who he has never met. Their notes express gratitude for spending his time with their loved ones, telling him how much their loved ones looked forward to and valued his visits.
When asked about memorable patients, he laughs and says there are so many. Two in particular pop into his head. The first was a patient who was completely blind and would recognize him by his footsteps. As he was walking down the hall, she would call out to him and admonish him if he was even a little late. She looked forward to their weekly visits and wanted to maximize the time they had together. The other patient was in her 100’s when she was admitted to hospice. Her prognosis was bleak and the doctor did not expect her to live long. If she had lived to her doctor’s expectations, she would not have lived until her next birthday. Instead, she exceeded all expectations and Zack enjoyed TWO birthday celebrations with her, joining in with family members and staff to honor this extraordinary woman. She became a maternal figure to Zack, doling out advice and relishing their time spent together. He visited with her for over two years.
Zack pauses quietly, reflecting on what his time as a Regional Hospice volunteer means to him. He has learned and grown a lot, he admits, but it’s the patients who he will miss the most.