Longtime VNA volunteer shares her role helping patients at the end of life
Anne Marie Schwein has volunteered with Visiting Nurse Association for 19 years. She often visits patients on her own to read, chat or share some of their favorite foods they may not have access to as easily since entering hospice.
One patient in particular stands out to Schwein—a woman she visited for over two years that loved chocolate covered strawberries. Schwein would bring the patient strawberries from her own garden during their visits. She eventually attended the patient’s wake after her death to meet the woman’s family, who expressed their gratitude for Schwein’s end-of-life care service.
“I wanted them to know she did not die alone, and she was cared for greatly,” said Schwein.
Schwein has also participated in Love on a Leash with her dog, Barkley. She is one of the first VNA hospice volunteers to work with Love on a Leash, a nonprofit, providing pet therapy, when they started the program several years ago.
“The animals have this uncanny connection they can make with a patient,” said Schwein. “Petting a warm and fuzzy animal can bring someone back to their childhood.”
Pets often provide a distraction from pain or the inevitable for patients. “They also have the ability to help the patient transition into the next life,” noted Schwein. “It doesn’t make death so scary.”
Schwein calls volunteering for hospice care a rewarding experience as she interacts with patients toward the end of life. She said visiting with patients gives them something to look forward to weekly.
“Overall, I’ve really enjoyed my time with my patients as I’ve helped them transition from this world into the next,” said Schwein. “You get more out of it than your patients do sometimes.”
Schwein says, “patients often want validation that it’s time for them to die, for someone to simply tell them it’s alright to let go.”
“I see it as my role to give them permission to pass over.”