Family, hospice volunteers gather at picnic

Ruby Wright of Hayden turns 102 today, but her long life may be attributed in part to help from her family. Ruby's granddaughter, who did not want to be named for this story, lives with and cares for her grandmother. The caregiver uses the assistance of a hospice program offered by the Visiting Nurse Association so that her grandmother can readily access medical help, but Wright also has the freedom to live the rest of her life in her own home.

"Hospice has been important to me," the caregiver said. "It helps if I have a question about her medical condition. I have something to fall back on so it's not just me."

About two dozen hospice clients, volunteers and family members gathered for a picnic Saturday in the park on Breeze Street. The picnic was an opportunity for the community to learn more about hospice and grief education classes offered locally, coordinator Sandy Beran said.

Grief education classes will be offered as the winter holidays near because that generally is a trying time for people who have lost loved ones, she said.

"We try to offer people different ways of getting through that period of time," Beran said.

Classes for hospice volunteers are offered on a yearly or bi-yearly cycle in Moffat County, or on an as-needed basis, Beran said.

It takes 20 hours of intensive training to become a volunteer, but the work pays off, volunteer Kathy Floyd said.

Volunteers may be called on daily or once in awhile to help hospice clients with small chores or give a caregiver a break.

"What takes us 20 minutes to do can be the most helpful thing for someone else," she said. "It's such a rush to be able to help people. It's so easy to run a vacuum or clean dishes in the sink -- they might have been in pain if they were trying to do it."

Hospice offers an alternative to sending a loved one to a nursing home or hospital -- a place Wright promised decades ago to keep her grandmother from. Wright needs more interaction than a nursing home could have provided, the caregiver said.

"Volunteers come to the house about two hours a week," she said. "(Wright) and I also do a lot of outside things."

Saturday's picnic garnered a few people curious about hospice and grief classes, but the services are largely unknown in Craig, some volunteers said.

Still, the prospect of living with loved ones until death can be an enriching experience, Linda Bethell said.

"I've talked to people who said they wouldn't have made it without the help," the volunteer said. "Hospice makes life bearable. I've never really dealt with death before this, but I've realized it doesn't have to be a horrible thing. It can be a pleasant experience for the family and not just a shock.

For more information about hospice or grief education classes, call Sandy Beran at 824-8233, ext. 249.

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