“I was familiar with the work hospice did for us and with us for my daughter. I felt that I needed to try to do something to “pay back.” – Richard Blankenfeld, father to hospice patient, Kim, and hospice volunteer
It had been over a year since the passing of his 45-year-old daughter, Kim, who died under hospice care surrounded by family in her Hilo home. “I saw an ad in the newspaper that hospice was looking for volunteers,” said 79-year-old Richard. “I called, came in for an interview, they did a background check, and we talked more about what I could do, and I was in.” That was over two years ago.
Since then, Richard gives a few hours a week to the care of our community. You can find him answering phones at our administrative office, assisting patient families with grocery shopping and other errands, or doing the quiet and vital work of being present for a patient in need.
When Richard first began volunteering, he did not feel comfortable going into people’s homes. Volunteer Manager, Jeanette Mochida understood and encouraged Richard to begin by helping patients at the Pōhai Mālama inpatient hospice center.
When asked what he would tell someone who is thinking about volunteering, but still unsure, Richard said, “If you are on the fence and thinking about it, talk to Jeanette; she really helped me. You don’t have to do special hands on; you can ease in to it. It feels good to help somebody.”
Richard’s wife, Judy, and two youngest grandchildren, ages 5 and 7 at the time of their mother’s death, have also benefited from being part of our programs.
“Anyone going through a loss of a spouse, a child, a parent – I don’t think it is something you can heal and fix all by yourself; it’s bigger than you are. Going to grief support and seeing familiar faces, sharing my story, was very good for me.” – Judy Blankenfeld, mother to hospice patient Kim, and wife to Hawai’i Care Choices’ Volunteer, Richard
“She had the best smile,” said Judy about her daughter, Kim. Hospice was called two weeks before her death. “My only regret is that we had not been referred sooner. I hadn't even thought that we should reach out, so that would be my one thing to somebody in our situation, because hospice has such great support, for both family and patient. When hospice came into our home to meet us and to meet Kim, it was like a weight was lifted. We immediately had help with getting her medication given to her, her bathing and her comfort care, and somebody was there if she wanted any spiritual guidance along the way. It was wonderful to have somebody we could call at any time of the day or night and get professional advice. It was like we had won the lottery, if only we had known about hospice sooner.”
A few weeks after Kim’s passing, Judy decided to attend the Tuesday drop-in grief support group. She became a regular and attended for two years. “It was a place you could go and cry, and it was ok. And it was a place if you wanted to say the same thing every week or nothing at all, that was ok, people welcomed you and loved you for it. You can relate differently to the grief group because no one is giving you advice. As soon as you tell (people you know) they always want to come back with something that might fix it or make you feel better, that’s good too, but the grief group, was completely embracing and non-judgmental. I got connected to the other people through their stories; it became a very important part of what I did on a weekly basis,” said Judy.
Judy and Richard’s young grandchildren also received loving support through Children’s Bereavement sessions, as well as attending family camp. Both boys looked forward to their weekly meetings to talk about their feelings, and understand their grief. Judy shared a cherished memory of a conversation with the smallest boy who lovingly stated, “Mommy is going to be with us in our hearts.”
It has now been four years since the passing of their beloved daughter. Judy is grateful for the grief support she and her grandsons received, and husband Richard continues to give back as a volunteer.
If you, or someone you love, has recently been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, call Hawai‘i Care Choices to discuss where you and your doctor believe you are on the continuum of care, and learn how we can help. The earlier you reach out – the more we can help.
For anyone in need of bereavement support, Hawai‘i Care Choices provides youth and adult bereavement counseling to the loved ones of departed hospice patients and individuals from the community. Most programs are FREE to attend. Please contact our Bereavement Team.
Interested in giving your time to be of service to others? Apply online here. Questions? Call and ask for Volunteer Manager Jeanette Mochida.
Hawai’i Care Choices direct line: (808) 969-1733