By Brigid Morrissey
It plagues the young and old. It shows no preference based on race, gender, or socioeconomic status. And it’s the big equalizer: death. Facing our own demise is not easy, even if you have an endless supply of support and love. But now imagine if you are alone.
No one wants to imagine dying alone, and Hildegard House, located at the former convent on the St. Joseph campus in Butchertown, has made it its mission to extend end-of-life services and provide a way to “die with dignity” to people at the end of life who have no loved ones or home.
“I was in a doctor’s office, and Karen Cassidy (Hildegard House executive director) was on the cover of one of the magazines. I read the article and called Hildegard House that night,” says volunteer Laura Thomas. “I loved its mission — that no one should die alone. It really resonated. I’ve lost a sister and a brother in the last three years, so the loss is what made me feel connected.”
|Laura Thomas, a volunteer at Hildegard House, helps manage the care of the residents.|
Photo by Aubrey Hillis
Since January, Laura has given her time to the residents at Hildegard House. She is a key component of an especially invested group of volunteers called Compassionate Companions. This title is earned after completing training over a weekend and two evenings. No prior medical experience is necessary — just a kind and gentle spirit willing to take on whatever role the patient needs. “We do all the resident care, just like it would be done if we were a family member,” Laura says. In the 15 hours she volunteers per week, Laura’s helping hand extends to everything from feeding to giving out medication. Residents have access to a hospice team, a nurse, a chaplain, and more. “The other volunteers are like a family,” she says. “They’re so kind. It really does feel like a home. We’re simply there to do what the residents need us to do, and it’s an honor to be on this journey with them.”
Hildegard House welcomes volunteers with any and all skill sets. You help how you can, whether you’re a cook, a musician, or a listening ear. “Volunteers can bring in meals, garden, donate health supplies, furniture, or anything it takes to run a house. Fund raise, give massages, manicures, or haircuts — you can do it here. You can get creative,” Laura says.