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The Gift of Volunteering
Mercedes Ibarra helps to improve the quality of life for patients every week as a hospice volunteer. Over the past year, the time she has spent volunteering through Silverado Hospice in Los Angeles has truly been a life-changing experience. She brings comfort and compassion to patients each week, oftentimes making shared moments more special.
Whether a patient wants to dance or simply needs a hand to hold, Mercedes is there to do just that. Mercedes works with patients affected by dementia or Alzheimer’s – and are in the later stages of the disease process. One of her patients resides at Silverado Memory Care Community in Redondo Beach, California, and the other at a local board and care home.
The Silverado resident (a former actress) enjoys the arts, and Mercedes is a professional flamenco dancer – making the duo a perfect match that results in many smiles during each visit. Mercedes has even had an opportunity to truly connect with the patient’s family, bringing comfort to them as well.
“Before becoming a hospice volunteer, I never knew that I could love someone I didn’t know that whole heartedly,” shares Mercedes. “And I like knowing that families feel that there is someone there to support them and their loved one.”
Inspired by both her patients and the care team at Silverado, Mercedes has even decided to purse becoming a spiritual counselor to further connect with those she serves. She has developed a passion for truly understanding how to be with others in their moment.
Her second patient no longer maintains communication skills, so living within that patient’s moments and sharing in those moments is what helps Mercedes to create a special bond.
“You can’t really control what mood your patient is going to be in, and you can’t control what the surroundings are going to be,” says Mercedes. “You’re just there to respond to that moment, and that’s all they need – and they appreciate you for that.”
In a message to those who don’t fully understand hospice, Mercedes shares that it is simply a group of individuals “who have dedicated their lives to helping people and their families at the end of their life.”
She hopes everyone understands that a hospice care team is committed to making the end-of-life transition easier and more peaceful by surrounding patients with love and understanding of what they are going through.
And as a reminder to all, Mercedes adds, “We don’t know how much time we have, and so it’s very precious to enjoy that time while you have it.”
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