In 2005, Monica McLellan was told to consider hospice care for her father. Treatment for his prostate cancer was no longer an option. A former oncology nurse, McLellan had heard good things about Samaritan Healthcare & Hospice and chose it for his care. After her father died, McLellan wanted to “give back in more than money” to the hospice that had cared for him. She took special training and became one of the program’s most valued volunteers.
Over the past 10 years, McLellan, 60, has dedicated more than 1,000 hours to Samaritan. “It’s just been a gift to me,” she says. “I love them.” She has cared for 47 patients and families, visiting patients in their homes, assisted-living communities, nursing homes and at Samaritan’s Inpatient Hospice Center in Mt. Holly. McLellan’s duties depend on the patient, but usually include reading, writing letters, light housework, playing cards, sharing stories or simply lending an ear to patients at a time when they may have no one else to talk to. She is Samaritan’s first choice among caregivers when circumstances are especially sensitive, says Sally Cezo, manager of volunteer services.
McLellan’s commitment and the respect she inspires among her fellow volunteers made her an obvious choice to train and mentor new volunteers, setting an example for “the true meaning” of their work, Cezo says. In 2008, she was also one of the original volunteers for the hospice’s new Vigil Volunteer program, which provides support during a patient’s final hours.
Mentees and family members speak of McLellan’s compassion and support for the patients, especially in more difficult cases when others may have had trouble communicating. “Monica makes our community a much more compassionate place,” Cezo says.
It takes a special kind of person to work with end-stage patients—but the work pays special dividends. “It’s made me a wholer person,” says McLellan. “I see the importance of living a good end life, not just throughout your life. It’s made life more precious.”