“My mom dying in a hospital was not the best, so that’s when I became interested in hospice,” says Karen Formont, a volunteer for the VNA Golf-A-Thon, VNA & Hospice Foundation’s annual fundraising event. During the monthly Golf-A-Thon volunteer meetings, Karen learned about the hospice care VNA offers, for patients at home and at the VNA Hospice House, an in-patient state-of-the art facility serving Indian River County when end-of-life care can no longer be managed at home. When her aunt recently became sick, Karen advised her cousin to contact VNA Hospice. “My cousin’s first opinion was, ‘Oh hospice, that’s dreary. You’re just kind of sent there to die,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, you know nothing about hospice.’”
Fortunately, Karen’s cousin took her advice, and her mom spent her final days comfortably at the VNA Hospice House. “Afterward, my cousin was just crying on the phone with me (saying) ‘thank you so much, what a wonderful way for everyone to say goodbye to her.’ I think the problem with hospice is people don’t know what they don’t know,” says Karen.
During Karen’s aunt’s stay at the VNA Hospice House, her care included music therapy, a special VNA Hospice program that Karen said her late aunt and extended family thoroughly appreciated. Another VNA service Karen was educated about was advance care planning, something she had personal experience with before her mom and dad passed away. “It’s easier for the person to make the decisions about themselves than it is for the family, and I think that’s another thing they’re very helpful with here at VNA, helping you with the steps to take,” she says.
Witnessing her aunt’s experience with hospice made Karen appreciate the benefits of having hospice care sooner rather than later. “I wish that people would contact this organization before the last few moments of someone’s death and realize they can get the support both before and after their loved one’s death,” she says.
Karen’s recent familial experience with hospice has also inspired her to volunteer even more. “I want to start sitting with people (on hospice) that have no one to be with them because I just think it’s very important to have someone in the room,” she says. “Everybody deals with death at some point, whether it’s a spouse, a parent or a child, and that’s why I feel really passionate about it.”