Program ensures emotional comfort during final moments

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 12:43 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 9, 2023 at 4:52 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Office of Spiritual Care at AU Health is launching a program to ensure patients are not left alone during their final moments.

The program is called No One Dies Alone (NODA).

They say many patients find themselves alone and without emotional comfort during this time.

Associate Director of Spiritual Care, Rev. Stephen Hughes, says they are looking for six volunteers to begin the program. Potential volunteers will go through training, form a team to support each other, and take turns sitting with patients.

“For patients without families, this means having a peaceful transition,” said Hughes “Somebody is constantly with them, holding their hand, letting them know it’s okay, you’re not alone. I love you. All those things.”

Training includes learning about the dying process, how to provide care, how to be inclusive, and how to use inclusive language.

“They said ‘I don’t want him to be alone. Can somebody sit with him?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I will be with him during the entire process from beginning to end,’” said Huges.

Volunteers will go through a drug screen, a background check, and a screening process.

“It’s so meaningful to me to know that everybody’s life is important. And how you die is just as important how you live,” said Huges.

As COVID got in the way, Huges took on a new role.

“I was assigned to the surgical ICU. There was one gentleman in particular; I’d watched him come in and watched the whole process fold out. His family, in the end, they had COVID. And so, they couldn’t come and be with him at that time,” he said.

Huges provided comfort when a family could not.

Hughes says during the pandemic, a patient’s family couldn’t be with him because they all had COVID. The family asked Hughes to stay with the patient and told him some of his favorite songs.

“I took my phone in there with him and played some of his favorite music until he passed. The family really, really didn’t want him to be alone,” he said. “If it was my family, I would want somebody with him, just to let him know it’s going to be okay.”

Hughes said he wants to ensure the volunteers are committed to serving and not just looking for something good to do.

“It’s truly inspirational to sit with some of these folks and hear their stories and be with them in those moments. And even for whether it’s 30 minutes or two days, you become part of their family, and they become part of your family in that. And each person touches you in a different way,” said Huges.

Now, with it becoming a growing reality, AU is launching an around-the-clock program for dying patients, turning the impossible into possible.

Henry Holt, Director of Spiritual Care at AU, said: “It’s impossible for, you know, all our team to cover all our different patients and so our volunteers come in and they help us to supplement, and you know and give some support in very meaningful ways. It also gives us volunteers with a sense of purpose and a sense of meaning to be with someone at the end of life when, when they’re transitioning.”

Giving reassurance their patients will leave the world just as they entered.

Huges said: “We want people to die peacefully, to die, not alone, again, surrounded by having someone in the room who genuinely cares for them and wants them to have a peaceful life. The transition, letting them know that, hey, you’re not alone, I’m here, there are people that love you that care about you. And I’m not gonna leave you.”

The office of spiritual care says interviews for volunteers starts next week. They are still looking for anyone that is 18 or older, willing to commit time, along with a caring and compassionate spirit and heart, and must have not had a recent death of a close friend or family member.

“Training would include what to do to provide that compassionate presence – what tools are available, what to do and not to do in the room,” he said.

For more information, or to learn how to apply, call Hughes or Chaplain Linda Hamilton in The Office of Spiritual Care at (706)721-2929.