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Hospice volunteering: Giving, receiving

One way Joyce Boettcher connects with hospice patients is by reading to them. When she was 27 and living in a small rural Iowa town, Boettcher took in her mother who was dying of ovarian cancer. A network of friends and neighbors gave her much-need breaks from caregiving duties. For three years before retiring, she was associate dean at the College of Education and Human Services at UW-Oshkosh. She and husband Paul moved to River Falls in 2000 to be closer to their grandchildren who lived in St. Paul. Th...

BALDWIN -- Reading has been important to Joyce Boettcher of River Falls for many years -- first as a teacher, then as a hospice volunteer.

As a College of Education professor at UW-Oshkosh, Boettcher taught courses for reading disabilities and preparing future teachers to work with children.

Before that, she taught at the University of Iowa and ran its children's reading clinic.

After her retirement in 1998 and eventual move to River Falls, Boettcher began reading to patients on her visits as a hospice volunteer for ADORAY Home Health and Hospice.

ADORAY is a nonprofit agency providing care and comfort at home for the acutely, chronically and terminally ill.

Hospice is a special kind of care for patients and their families facing terminal illness who are no longer seeking treatment.

The goal of hospice care is to provide comfort and dignity at the end of life by managing symptoms, and by providing emotional and spiritual support.

Community volunteers, like Boettcher, are important members of the ADORAY Hospice team.

A volunteer may sit with a patient to talk or read, provide respite for the caregiver, take a patient on an outing, deliver flowers, play cards or do light housekeeping.

Boettcher's visits with patients, whether she's reading to them or just sitting, also gives caregivers time to do some shopping or to see friends.

"I'm needed," said the 76-year-old Boettcher, who's volunteered with many patients and their families in the nine years since she took the hospice volunteer training offered by ADORAY. "I know the families appreciate it."

"I feel comfortable helping in this way because I don't have a medical background," she adds. "This is just being a good companion. It doesn't require nursing experience. I find it very satisfying."

The training prepared her for hospice volunteering. She knows the ADORAY Hospice team will help if she has questions.

The classes train citizens to become part of the ADORAY Hospice team. Those in attendance learn the philosophy of hospice care.

The interdisciplinary hospice team provides symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support.

Debbie Milligan, ADORAY Hospice volunteer coordinator, matches volunteers with patients and families. She says Boettcher exemplifies the finest in volunteering.

"Joyce does such a wonderful job visiting hospice patients," Milligan said. "We are grateful for her willingness, sometimes on short notice, to stay with people who are near the end of life. Joyce also serves ADORAY by mailing out cards to bereaved family members, a much appreciated job.

"Like Joyce, all of our volunteers are indispensable to the patients and families we serve, and are key members of our hospice team.

"Sometimes volunteers get special assignments, such as taking a patient to a bookstore or going fishing. One volunteer even helped tear down a deck and build a handicapped accessible ramp."

ADORAY offers hospice volunteer training each fall.

Milligan and several others from the ADORAY staff share practical knowledge and their own experiences with hospice during the training.

"We hope both men and women will come forward to take the training," Milligan said. "And we are especially in need of veterans to help us honor the veterans in hospice."

"Our volunteers find many rewards in serving their community," Milligan said. "They have a greater appreciation of life and grow in emotional and spiritual ways."

To learn more about hospice and the role of volunteers, attend one of the information sessions presented by ADORAY Hospice from 4-6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 18, at the ADORAY office, 2231 Highway 12, Suite 201, Baldwin; or from 7-9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at River Falls Area Hospital, Classroom A.

Those who choose to become volunteers will attend two days of classes, Oct. 9 and 16, at the ADORAY office in Baldwin.

For more information, call Milligan at 715-684-5020 or 800-359-0174, or email to

ADORAY has served hospice patients in St. Croix, Pierce, western Dunn, and Polk counties for over 17 years.

ADORAY is owned by Baldwin Area Medical Center; Hudson Hospital & Clinics, River Falls Area Hospital; and Westfields Hospital, New Richmond.

Treasures from the Heart, Baldwin and River Falls, raises money to help local ADORAY patients.