Hospice of Michigan says male volunteer count low
Hospice of Michigan said fewer men are volunteering. This is creating a gap in male volunteers compared to females.
In Alpena, officials said 90% of the volunteers at that office are women.
Kathy Lietaert, volunteer manager for the northern region of Hospice of Michigan, said male volunteers can often build better bonds with male patients.
“There are men that would prefer to share hunting stories or things that men typically do,” Lietart said. “There's veterans, which were traditionally men, sometimes like to visit with other veterans that are men.”
Lietaert says most offices are like Alpena and Hospice of Michigan usually has a nearly equal number of male and female patients.
An 80-year-old volunteer named Charles Eugene Austin said his time with Hospice of Michigan has taught him valuable skills to deal with death and how to console others about it.
“As I get older, and my friends die – they get sick,” Austin said. “If someone calls and it sounds like they need listening here – or empathy – I can help them in some way. I am more open to that.”
Austin said he wasn’t sure about volunteering for hospice care, at first, but when he started he discovered Hospice of Michigan gives training to handle the hurdles people might come across.
Before retiring, Austin was an automotive engineer for Chrysler. He said he was never taught how to show a sensible side to others, but his time with patients near their time of death gave him more perspective on his own life.
Being the oldest of seven siblings, Austin set up a weekly Zoom meeting for all of them to catch up. He noticed once everyone progressed in life, they lost contact with each other as time went on.
“I think that sensitivity probably has come from hospice,” Austin said. “[I’m] just realizing that being with people, and sharing your life is more important than finishing a project out in the garage.”
One aspect of hospice care that Austin pointed out is the friendships you create while volunteering.
Austin said volunteering for Hospice of Michigan has been a great experience and recommends this to retired men. He notes the time and effort put in can be a lot for people that work, but says the effort is worth it.
“In a relationship during a very crucial period of a person's life, a lot gets shared,” Austin said. “I would say there hasn't been a contact, yet, that hasn't been beneficial to me, as I look back.”