Mickey Gulli’s Experience as an Eleventh-Hour Volunteer

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. The following is Mickey’s story and her journey as an eleventh-hour volunteer.

Why Did Mickey Become an Eleventh-Hour Volunteer?

At a young age, Mickey’s father passed away. As the oldest sibling of two younger brothers, she was expected to handle almost everything related to her father’s death. Afterwards, she felt as though she was ill-prepared for her roll and uneducated. In retrospect, she knew the job could have been done better. As years went on, Mickey had other close family members pass away. She recognized that she was able to handle the situation a lot better because of the experience she continued to gain each time.

Mickey continued to do research and apply her knowledge. Unfortunately, her husband passed away eight years ago. The one thing that was different, though, was her gained experience from similar situations. She explains, “I did an outstanding job. We were pleased to be able to help him have a nice death.”

At the time Mickey began volunteering, she was a pet therapist with Premier Hospice & Home Health. The volunteer coordinator mentioned the eleventh-hour volunteer opportunity to Mickey and she thought, “Yes, I could do that. And I could do that well.” Following that conversation, she went through the training process and realized this was some place she felt very comfortable.

“Oftentimes I am asked how I can do this and if it is sad. I always respond saying that it is not sad at all. To me, it is such a privilege to be able to do this and to be invited into a family to help them through a difficult time.” -Mickey Gulli

How the Eleventh-Hour Has Impacted Mickey

Oftentimes, the eleventh-hour volunteers do not know the story of their patient beforehand. If the experience is in a private home with family, volunteers can sometimes pick up bits and pieces of the patient’s life. In a facility, though, there is normally no one else present.

It happened a few weeks ago.

Mickey arrived at a facility to be with a patient in a memory care unit who had no family. Shortly after she arrived to relieve another volunteer, a staff member came in to say goodbye to the patient. Afterwards, the staff member stayed for fifteen minutes and talked with Mickey about the patient and how fond of her she was.

A few minutes passed, and another staff member came in to the room and started telling Mickey about the patient – how she was always so warm and positive.

A little while later, another.. and ANOTHER.

Mickey was simply amazed.

“It was so nice to hear these stories and how the patient impacted lives. To hear the stories about how happy she was – it wasn’t just a person dying in front of me that I knew nothing about. These stories personalized the experience. I thought about it for days afterwards.” –Mickey Gulli

Why Does Mickey Continue to Volunteer?

“I continue to volunteer because of the experience I have gained. It is such a privilege to be a part of this for so many families and to know that the patient is not dying alone in their bed with no one with them. Normally, the family can be uncomfortable with the situation. It can be apprehensive. My presence makes it more comfortable for them. I know that this is not for everyone and that not everybody can do this. I am pleased that I am in a position to be an eleventh-hour volunteer and that my past has brought me to this place.” – Mickey Gulli

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.