Suncoast Hospice needs volunteers willing to comfort strangers at the end of their lives

PALM HARBOR, Fla — Being at a stranger's bedside to provide comfort to them in the weeks and days they have left on this earth - and hold their hand as they pass away; that's the type of volunteer Suncoast Hospice needs more of. 

Nancy Suzor has been a Transition volunteer for 2 years now at Suncoast Hospice. She often sits with people at nursing homes too and gets to know them. 

"I have a 99-year-old that is getting closer. It’s going to be very, very hard. I have feelings, it’s hard not to," she said. "To be with a person at the end of their life is so beautiful."

"It’s very much about finding the right volunteer for the right patient and making that match that is kind of magical," said Judie Bortness, the Senior Volunteer Coordinator at Suncoast Hospice. 

Volunteers provide a loving presence to people who do not have family and friends nearby or at all. They are assigned shifts and go in at a designated time and then swap out with another volunteer so the patient isn't alone.

They read books, play music, and hold their hand.

"They don’t have visitors, they don’t have friends and to be able to sit with them, with someone and just let them know that I’m here, that I'm with Hospice," said Suzor.

Bortness says they need more people like Suzor that aren't squeamish and are OK encountering death. They also offer support to family members that have never had a loved one die.

"This takes a special person," said Suzor. Other volunteer opportunities are available too for people who are not comfortable sitting at a bedside - office and welcome volunteers are an option or you can volunteer in their resale thrift shop too. 

Medical experience isn't needed - volunteers receive 16 hours of training plus an extra four if you're sitting at a bedside.

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