11th Hour Volunteers: A Supportive Presence in the Final Hours of Life

One basic value of hospice care is that no one should die alone without support or the presence of loved ones. In addition to caring for the patient, the loved ones of hospice patients deserve and benefit from support as well. Eleventh-hour volunteers are trained to keep vigil and provide that supportive presence to patients and families in the final hours of life.

What is an eleventh-hour volunteer?

Oftentimes, patients find themselves alone during their last days because they have limited or no family close-by. These trained volunteers are able to fill in when a loved one cannot or when a family members need a break or support for themselves during this time by offering warmth, compassion, concern and a healing touch. Simply offering gestures like sitting with the patient and/or family, holding hands, praying or sharing in silence make a world of difference during such a difficult time.

Premier Hospice & Home Health in Phoenix, AZ provides these services for our patients. After 12 hours of face-to-face training in the classroom, in addition to the standard volunteer training that is required, our eleventh-hour volunteers leave well-prepared and ready to offer their supportive services. This unique service is offered around the clock and it does not matter the location – in private homes, assisted living facilities, or group homes – our volunteers will be there.

How our program started:

In 2015, one nurse was discussing with coworkers about a patient’s family where the husband/father was dying. She explained that the wife was with him and the adult children had flown in with their families as well. Because of the patient’s last wish being to die at home, the family was distraught and constantly bickering over who knew best for him. In addition, none of the family had slept because they wanted to be there when he died and make sure they were meeting all his needs.

In response to her story, one of the nurse’s coworkers, Laura Ehmann, offered a suggestion – that they have a volunteer sit there and be with the family and patient during the final hours. They sent two volunteers, to sit in two 8-hour shifts, so that the family could rest. One volunteer explained,

“I made make-shift beds in the living room for the family. I had to be firm with them and promise to wake them if anything changed. Six hours into my shift, I noticed the patient’s breathing change. I woke the family up and everyone was able to sit on the edge, well rested, and be present with him while he took his last breath like they wanted.”

Driving home that morning, the volunteer realized that there needed to be something more to what she just did. As a result, Laura took the next nine months to write a training manual for eleventh-hour volunteers. This way, the volunteers are more prepared for similar situations in the future.

Our program now:

Now, Premier Hospice and Home Health offers 14 eleventh-hour volunteers. Some have even been with the program since its beginning.  These volunteers make a difference in the lives of their patients’ families. As one patient put it,

“I do not know how I would have made it through the night

if my volunteer had not been there for me.”

These volunteers continue to make an impact on patients and their families as they pass through hospice care. In November of 2016, Premier Hospice & Home Health was awarded the 2015 Excellence in End-of-Life Care award honoring services that go above and beyond. Our dedication to ensuring these volunteers are educated and prepared offers families the quality experience they expect and deserve from us.

If you or someone you know is interested in becoming an eleventh-hour volunteer, please contact Laura Ehmann at (602) 274-7572 or laura.ehmann@premierhospiceaz.com.


P.s. Be on the lookout for our next 11th Hour Volunteer articles featuring our volunteers and their journeys with this program!

Now Hiring – Open Interviews!

Now Hiring - Open Interviews blue flyer. Join Tuesday January 29th and again Wednesday 20th!
Now Hiring – Open Interviews!


Join us for donuts and open interviews Tuesday, January 29th and again Wednesday, January 30th at our Kokomo branch located at 2529 Commerce Drive Suite A, Kokomo IN, 46902


Please bring a resume or have the ability to attach one following the interview! Please contact us if you have any questions.

Premier Indiana Social Worker team building activity!

Premier Indiana Social Worker team building!

Two rows of 9 of Indiana's Premier Hospice and Palliative care Social Worker's participating in a fun team building activity at the Escape Rooms and posing for a photo for successfully escaping with minutes to spare!
Left to right: (first three crouching in the front row) – Nicole Carter, Sophia McCormick, Ciera Donham (second row) – Emily Cole, Carmen Johnson, Caitie Hantelman, Mary Leonhard, Erin Mannell, April Rodriguez, Melody Pyle, Casey Sitko

All of Indiana’s Premier Hospice and Palliative care Social Worker’s participating in a fun team building activity at the Escape Rooms, the team successfully escaped with minutes to spare! Congratulations team!

The Eleventh-Hour program

Big hearts that our Eleventh-Hour volunteers have.

Premier Hospice Phoenix loves our patients with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Therefore, when a loved one’s death is imminent, the preparation and care we give during the final hours are a special gift.

The Eleventh-Hour program
In the Eleventh-Hour program, we are flexible, attentive and responsive to a family’s needs. We ensure that a loved one and his family members do not face this difficult transition alone. We pay attention to the physical, emotional and spiritual well being of the loved one, offering companionship and comfort.

“I think the Eleventh-Hour program is one of the best programs that has been put together,” said Susan Lee, who has been volunteering for 3 years. “I believe it gives the person passing away peace of mind to know someone is there to hold their hand. I’ll talk with them and pray with them, depending on their religion. It also gives me a peace of mind that I assisted someone.”

We also encourage the loved one’s family members to make peace and say their goodbyes. This type of pristine service takes teamwork: from the caring volunteer like Susan, to the hospice nurses, and dedicated chaplains.
Susan decided to join the program after talking extensively with Vice President of Support Services Laura Ehmann, attending the introductory meeting, and learning more from her daughter, who also volunteers.

At first Susan was not sure she could handle the stages that occur along the final-hours of one’s life, but her experience with her mother passing away, drove her to selflessly care for others.

“I also knew that I didn’t want someone to be left alone,” said Susan. “And when my mom passed away (with a different company), she was alone … I needed to go home and do something and I’ve always felt so guilty about the fact that she was alone when she passed away. I didn’t want another person to to have that feeling that they were alone, and no one was there to hold their hand, to talk to them, or to comfort them.”

According to Susan, it is crucial to consistently be by the patient’s side, and establish a calm and gentle environment for everyone involved. During this time of grief, the Eleventh-Hour Program helps families help their loved ones.
“My part is to make sure the patients are comfortable and at peace and that, more than anything, they are not alone; someone is continuously there with them,” said Susan. “And if the family is there, I put them at ease so they know we are there to help them along with the patient to make sure everyone is comfortable.”

Premier Hospice will prepare and train a volunteer to look for specific signs in the patient, know how to relax the patient, and talk through any concerns and needs with other family members.

“The training you go through is going to walk you through everything so that you know you have the feeling you want to do it,” said Susan. “Before you sit with a patient, you’re going to have the knowledge, you’re going to know what to expect, so that you don’t have any surprises.”

When a patient is alone, a quick response from a volunteer makes sure the patient receives respect, kindness, and love. In other instances, family members need to be reassured that their loved one is comfortable, and that their presence is what matters most to him or her.

If you are interested in volunteering with this special program, reach out to Laura Ehmann, the Vice President of Support Services at Laura.Ehmann@premierhospiceaz.com.

We are always looking to add new members to the team!

Premier Hospice Honors Veterans

Certificate of recognition from We Honor Veterans to Premier Hospice and Home Health
Premier Hospice receiving recognition in being a level four partner with We Honor Veterans

Give recognition when recognition is due, right? Well Premier Hospice has recently received recognition for their continual efforts in partnering with We Honor Veterans (WHV)!

For those who don’t know, WHV is an organization committed to providing variations of support to Veterans. This program was born in collaborative efforts from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) to increase awareness for Veteran-centered care.

In other words, this incredible program advocates the strategic development and education to hospice providers of the unique needs Veterans have during their end-of-life care. But it doesn’t stop there, they also provide resources for Veterans as well.

In today time’s, it’s hard to keep track of all the information that is made available. And with that being said, most Veterans are actually unaware of all the benefits available at their finger tips. In all this programs goals are to increase access to resources and improve quality of care.

In the end, this partnership becomes mutually beneficial for all. Expanding community outreach allows Premier Hospice to be apart of such a great initiative to “serve those who served us”.

The program offered from WHV has four levels of commitment to the partnership. Premier Hospice received recognition for the top level – level four. Fortunately, through continual effort Premier Hospice has diligently  worked their way up the program latter.

Level 1 – Provide Veteran-centric education for staff , volunteers, and identify patients with military              experience.

Level 2 – Build organizational capacity to provide quality care for Veterans.

Level 3 – Develop and strengthen relationships with VA medical centers and other Veteran organizations.

Level 4 – Increase access and improve quality of care for Veterans in your community.

Huge congratulations to the Premier Hospice team for their continual efforts in achieving fourth level recognition from WHV!

At Premier, we recognize and proudly serve those who chose to serve our country. To find our more about joining the Premier team or how our hospice services can benefit you or your loved one please, contact us.


Sharon’s Story: Becoming a Hospice Volunteer

I became interested in becoming a volunteer with hospice after both my mother-in-law and father-in-law passed away. Both parents were able to stay in their own home during their last months of life because of Premier Hospice. Everyone affiliated with Premier is caring and dedicated to ensuring patient needs are met. They go above and beyond, equipping family with the resources they need to care for their loved ones and themselves during the grieving process.

Becoming a hospice volunteer is rewarding—lending support to the caregiver and family members of your patients. Something as simple as sitting with a patient so a family member can run errands is appreciated—not only by the patient’s family but also the entire hospice staff.

Premier’s volunteer program is thorough. The coordinators are always available to answer any questions or concerns you may have. You can contact the volunteer coordinator or fill out an application.

One of my most memorable visits to a patient was at a private home. Her daughter, in her young twenty’s, was caring for her mom in her last few months of life. As her mother’s passing became more evident, she was having a difficult time saying goodbye. She did not want to be alone with her mom when she took her last breath. I went to the house to sit with the patient and provide support to her daughter. As we sat at the patient’s bedside, her daughter told me several childhood stories. “My friends thought my mom was the coolest,” she said beaming. “She would drive us to the mall, the movies, and then she’d drive us home too. She was so present in my life—it’s hard to know what to say, now that she’s unconscious.” I explained to her that even though her mom was in a deep sleep, she could still hear her words. I told her I would step out of the room for a few minutes so she could have some time alone with her mom. She should just say what was in her heart. My sweet new friend did just that, and she told me afterwards how relieved she was!

I am so thankful that I chose to become a volunteer with Premier Hospice. It’s experiences like this that make life so rewarding.



Music Therapy: More the Merrier

Cheryl has the ability to help clients avoid depression and anxiety, thanks to music therapy. She says a husband/wife duet began asking family members and neighbors to join in their music. Numbers grew each music therapy session. By Thanksgiving, 40 family members had rearranged their holiday schedule to participate in Cheryl’s music therapy session. They showed up with their favorite musical instruments, ready to jam and enjoy each other.

“It was an activity they could all do together! It really stuck with me,” says Cheryl. “ I told them the more the merrier and they took me to it.”

Cheryl uses music therapy to ease her patients’ anxiety and reduce pain. I ask my patients questions like: “How can I help you socialize with other people in this new facility?” “How can I help you make friends?” If I have a patient who is not responding to me, I’ll use family as resources by asking for the patient’s favorite childhood song or lyrics that hold special meaning.

For more information on Premier’s services, call us, anytime. We’re available 24/7.
(317) 844-8700

Meet Mike: A Day in the Life of a Hospice Nurse

It’s 5 p.m. and Mike is off to work for the day. Mike is a night nurse and part of the intake process for Premier Hospice Indiana, educating patients and their families on hospice services: counseling, medical services, and postmortem care. “It’s an important job because people often don’t like the word hospice,” says Mike. “I  tell people that hospice care isn’t like hospitals. It’s not about curing the ailments that patients have but bettering their livelihood while they have them so that way they stay comfortable and content.” Premier Hospice creates comfort kits for the patients. The “comfort kit” contains medications used only when needed to relieve symptoms that commonly arise in terminally ill patients.

As an on-call night nurse, time goes quickly because no evening is ever the same. Mike’s goal is simple: he ensures the patient’s needs are met by visiting frequently and spending time with loved ones to make sure the entire family is comforted. Mike appreciates Premier’s philosophy, the Golden Rule: treating others how we all want to be treated.

“They’re long hours, but at the end of the day, seeing how my team makes the lives of patients and their families brighter in their difficult times makes the job all worth it.”

As we continue to grow and expand, there is no better time to join the Premier Family. Contact us for more information on careers. Or send a resume. We will let you know when jobs open up.