Margo Grobsmith became a volunteer for Hospice of Central New York five years ago.
She had just retired from Bishop Ludden High School after a longtime career in campus ministry. Her interests on issues related to death and dying began early; her mother died when she was just 14 years old.
"It seems ...," she paused. "That's what we're here for. We die. And people are pretty much afraid of it. I was determined I wasn't going to be afraid of it."
As a family caregiver at CNY Hospice, Grobsmith comforts not only the sick but also the family members who directly endure their loved one's final stages of life.
"We're there for them," she said on behalf of the volunteers. "It's not to make myself feel good [nor is it] to come with a preconceived notion of knowing just what they need to process their situation."
Rather, she said, volunteers must go to a family's home to comfort and serve their needs.
"Sometimes you read them books. I've read scriptures to people. I pray with people. I've knitted with people. I've watched re-runs of M*A*S*H with people," Grobsmith said. "It just depends on what they need."
CNY Hospice provides palliative care to people of all ages who have a prognosis of six months or less to live. About half of its overall volunteers are family caregivers, like Grobsmith, who visit patients at their homes, in hospitals, at nursing homes or at residential care facilities, such as Francis House in Syracuse. Training takes eight weeks to complete and volunteers are taught what to expect, Grobsmith said, from building relationships to setting boundaries.
The two-month time period also provides Hospice a chance to meet its volunteers and match up families accordingly. For instance, Grobsmith has a fear of cats so she will never be placed in a home with felines.