dignity at the end of life

The “Week of Civic Engagement” ran nationwide from September 9th to 18th, in the city of Freising the Volunteering Action Week will take place this year from September 23rd to October 1st with many events. Clubs and organizations are already presenting themselves in the shop windows of Freising shops – and the Freisinger SZ has asked “volunteers” what motivates them to sacrifice their free time to help others voluntarily and free of charge. The result is the mini-series “Have the honor”. Today: Heidi Bisping-Arnold, 73 years old, Freising hospice group.

“I worked as a pulmonologist in Freising for 30 years and before I retired I thought about what I could do in a meaningful way. I looked around in the social sector and ended up at the volunteer market at the hospice group stand – there I have a colleague from met me. She told me that the association was looking for a doctor who would be involved in the board – and tried to persuade me to do so. I’m actually not a member of the association, but she has I was softened into coming to a meeting. On my first evening at the hospice group, random elections were on the agenda – and I was immediately elected to the board. That was in 2014. In 2015 I did my training as a hospice attendant. This started four weekends and ten evenings as group work on various topics, including dealing with one’s own death.

Mental hygiene supervision

Our task is to accompany someone at the end of their life, to fulfill their wishes – if possible – to be there. We talk, listen, read aloud or go on short trips, go shopping or for walks. People at the end of their lives have the right to good care and a dignified death. Most would like to be able to die at home in familiar surroundings, to die without pain. As a doctor, I probably have a fundamentally different way of dealing with death, I also had to have a professional distance professionally. But when I accompany someone I know, of course it also affects me. But I don’t feel overwhelmed with this voluntary work. We have regular supervision every two months, where problems are discussed and solutions sought. These meetings are supervised by a psychologically trained accompaniment, they are important for mental hygiene. We, the volunteers, are well taken care of and supported by the full-time employees.

Four to six accompaniments a year

I did my state exam in 1973, at that time dealing with dying was terrible, people in the clinics were put on beds in the bathroom to die – and every now and then they checked whether they were still alive. That was unloving and unworthy. I thought even then that something had to be done. That is also the goal of the hospice movement: dying with dignity. The palliative team is responsible for medical care, we for psychosocial care. Luckily, a lot has changed in the past 50 years. One of us is there every day on the palliative care ward, we also work in the new hospice in Erding, as well as in nursing homes. I myself do between four and six accompaniments every year, the shortest lasted two hours, the longest so far was over two and a half years. I visit some of them once a week, but I’m also with some almost every day – it varies from person to person. I not only accompany the dying, I am also there for the relatives. I experience great gratitude for my support, I get a lot of positive things in return.”

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