Since 2007, Carol Howe has been a devoted and dedicated Regional Hospice volunteer. While attending a meeting as a Stephen’s Minister at her local church, she learned about Regional Hospice’s volunteer program and found that it spoke to her heart.
Carol’s Dad died at home while receiving hospice services. She and her Mom were so grateful for the hospice team who cared for him and allowed them to spend quality time together in his final days. Having experienced this service herself, Carol wanted to give back to others who were going through a similar experience.
After attending volunteer training, Carol began providing hospice patients and families with companionship and support. Known for her gentle nature, flexibility and calming effect, Carol was a natural when it came to being there at this phase of life. A retired middle school teacher, Carol had an innate ability to connect with others. The team quickly found that she had a knack for working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Carol’s attentiveness, ability to go with the flow and kindness reached this population well. She formed relationships with patients, even if they were unable to speak or communicate through language directly, and created connections that were deep and profound.
Over the years, Carol called on her experience as a teacher and willingly stepped in to train new volunteers and help them feel comfortable in their new role. She often recounted a poignant experience to new volunteers to emphasize that even the smallest things you do can have a meaningful impact. Years ago, Carol regularly visited a patient who was unresponsive. She would visit week after week, sitting next to her, talking softly to her and gently holding her hand. Carol began doubting the value of her visits, as nothing she did seemed to elicit a response and the patient seemed peaceful. She planned to talk to the Volunteer Department and let them know that she thought her time would be better spent with other patients. Just before she went to leave the patients’ bedside that day, much to her surprise, the patient took Carol’s hand, brought it to her lips and gently kissed it. The magnitude of that moment is one that Carol will never forget. This visit taught her never to doubt the comfort that a simple loving presence can bring someone. Suffice it to say, Carol continued visiting with this patient regularly until the very end of the patient’s life.
Over her 10 years of volunteering, Carol’s warm and gentle presence touched the lives of many hospice patients in the Brookfield area and beyond. She became a fixture at Brookfield Commons, where she dedicated much of her time working with hospice patients and the staff there had the privilege of getting to know her as well. Her willingness to always help others, her unwavering commitment to the mission of hospice and helping to bring comfort to people at the end of life, the unassuming way in which she approached each patient, and her amenability to doing mundane things like paperwork in a timely and thorough fashion, demonstrate Carol’s commitment to volunteerism. These reasons and more highlight why Carol Howe has been named Regional Hospice and Palliative Care’s 2017 “Volunteer of the Year.”