Get to Know…Beatrice Lewis, Volunteer

| By Jodi Horton

Editor’s Note: This column features people who keep things running behind the scenes and those who are on the “front lines,” providing care to our patients. All of the Casa employees and volunteers have been asked to answer five questions. The first three emphasize their hospice care work and the last two give you just a little taste of who they are besides a hospice worker or volunteer.

1. What led you to volunteer for a hospice organization?

I had visited Cecily Saunders’ first hospice in London soon after it opened. I had a firm called Humanized Environments, and her vision fitted into my firm’s approach to designing for people with special needs. Two years ago, my husband was at Casa, where he died. Soon after that I decided to study Reiki, and when I was able, I enrolled in the training program at Casa. I wanted to be part of the caring team.

2. What are your volunteer responsibilities?

Because I travel fairly frequently, I opted to work at the IPU. There I have direct contact with patients, family members, and of course, the wonderful staff. I sit with patients. I listen to people. They have stories to tell. I provide Reiki when allowed. I make sure the furnishings are neat and in good order. I deal with the floral arrangements of Casa and patients.

3. In your opinion, what value does hospice bring to healthcare?

Succinctly put, hospice provides the right care at a critical time in a cost effective manner. The value of hospice lies in its approach to death and dying. Because there comes a time when medical interventions will be ineffective, then palliative care and physical comfort must become the prime focus.

Hospice provides appropriate care at a lower cost than other medical institutions. My experience is that doctors are reluctant to give up and admit that their patient is terminal, that nothing more can be done other than palliative care. They should be trained to face this dilemma and provide the family access to hospice far earlier than they do.

The majority of patients want to die in their familiar surroundings. They do not want an institutional setting. Here, hospice personnel and volunteers provide the patients and caregivers professional, loving support. Caregivers are carrying the emotional burden of knowing that their loved one will die, as well as the relentless physical effort they must make. Having a knowledgeable team to call upon is invaluable. They can ask the unaskable.

When remaining at home becomes impossible, then the inpatient unit of Casa provides a more home-like physical environment, while providing emotional support for the patient and all family members.

4. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

In my spare time, I provide Reiki, I exercise, I make jewelry, I write poetry, I drum, I correspond with a number of people, I travel, I interact with family, I attend theater and opera, I’m writing my memoirs. What spare time? There are never enough hours in the day. How did I ever have the time to work?

5. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a child, I wanted to be a physician.

Plus, Beatrice answered two bonus questions!

6. What is one thing on your bucket list?

I want to go soaring in England. It’s called gliding.

7. If you could meet anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

I would want to meet Madame Curie because she flouted tradition and followed her vision. She was committed to her scientific work yet managed to raise a family. She collaborated with her husband Pierre and made the remarkable discovery of X-rays. She also paid with her life as a result of her frequent exposure to radiation.

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